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Urged by my sister-in-law to actually read Glenn Beck’s book(s) before I comment on him, I checked out his An Inconvenient Book from the library today, and have made it almost through chapter three.  Needless to say, I still disagree with many of Beck’s sentiments and his overall presentation of the issues, and while he poses some interesting questions and proposes some interesting solutions at times and makes some pretty solid challenges, his polarized and, at times, childish view of the world and use of false dilemma leave me less than impressed.

In the first chapter, Beck challenges the affects of humanity on global warming, the affect of CO2 on global warming, the nature of the Kyoto protocol, and proposes solutions to these issues. First, I agree with Beck that the media tends to sensationalize the debate, and while I disagree with the postulates of some of his satire (or at least don’t find it funny), I do agree that the media should explore both sides of the issue and give equal time to scientists with research that disagrees with global warming proponents. Discussions are fueled not by eliminating information, but by presenting both sides of the issue. However, I think Beck misses the larger picture when he ridicules governments like Australia, which is attempting to reduce CO2 by forcing folks to use halogen bulbs, or the Kyoto protocol, which attempts to limit CO2 and other greenhouse gases (including methane and nitrous oxide, both of which Beck mentions in his book but doesn’t link to the Kyoto protocol) through energy caps, reduced emissions, carbon sinks, etc. Beck criticizes the protocol for not being equal across the board (developing countries get off more than developed countries, such as the United States) and for the idea that he still isn’t sure that global warming is the hot button issue that many make it out to be. He creates a false dilemma, arguing that one can either support the Kyoto protocol or invest the trillions of dollars that it would take to decrease greenhouse gases by 2% and use it on things like education, feeding the poor, etc. What Beck ignores, of course, is that governments can and should do both.

                Here’s how it theoretically could work: The U. S. Government dumps serious money (think the war budget serious, and not the teaser bailout) into alternative energy research, technology, and implementation, thereby creating jobs, stimulating the economy to a point of self-sustainability and creating a cleaner future for its citizens. This model is repeated throughout the world, via gifts/donations/sales of the new ecofriendly technology to developing nations. Beck argues against this via capitalism, i.e., alternative energy should only be used ONLY when it’s as cost effective as fossil fuels. This is one of my major issues with Beck. Governments should not be run like corporations, which operate like irresponsible psychopaths, but with elements of far reaching moral and ethical concerns.  In other words, taking into consideration the damage that fossil fuels cause the earth through their harvesting (mountain top removal for coal, oil well disasters, etc.), transportation (Exxon-Valdez in Alaska, etc.), implementation and use, the government should opt for the less-immediately attractive but far reaching plan of eliminating fossil fuels as quickly as possible and investing in and developing as many alternatives as possible and by doing everything possible, from emission caps to corporate fossil fuel taxes and alternative energy tax cuts, to achieve a completely fossil fuel free nation. Beck speaks to this as a solution at the end of the chapter, but only as an investor, and not as social policy. In other words, Beck is content to let fossil fuels continue to be used for the reason that one person’s CO2 output really isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things, or because China isn’t going to cap emissions, so neither should we.

This sort of logic ignores the greater purpose of ecological reform, which is to stop harming the earth and the beings that inhabit it with humanity. The idea that one person’s contribution is so miniscule as to make no difference is a very narrow minded way of looking at things; Beck also argues that anyone who is interested in greenhouse gas emission but isn’t a vegan is a hypocrite due to their ignoring of the amount of greenhouse gasses put out by the waste of animals. This is the sort of demonizing and childish language which Beck employs, ignoring the idea that ANY contribution, no matter how large or small, makes a difference. It’s an idea from the Shambhala tradition—the less hate and destruction one puts into the world, the less hate and destruction one receives; the more basic goodness that people infuse into their lives and their interactions with the world, the more it will resonate throughout society. In other words, these miniscule changes, be they fueled by economics (driving a hybrid car makes my gasoline bill less), religion (humans were assigned to tend creation, so that means not eliminating species), or basic morals and self-preservation (destroying the earth is bad if I intend to live on it, or have my children, or their children do so), will ultimately have a ripple effect, creating larger and more profound changes in the way our society runs, and possibly in the way we treat each other.

That being said, Beck’s seventh chapter is titled “America’s Oil Dependence: The Peak of Stupidity.” I’m curious to see where this chapter goes, and how it’s balanced against the “do nothing” attitude of Chapter 1.

Words for the Taking?

     In an interview, poet Eliot Khalil Wilson discussed students who were horrified when he suggested a word change in the poems, not because he had critiqued them, but because they couldn’t use the change as it was his word and not theirs. Wilson’s reply was simple: “I don’t own the language.”

     I find the idea of ownership of language a bit interesting, especially in the world of poetry, when the lines between inspiration, allusion and outright plagiarism are so easily blurred. For example, a common writing prompt given to students is to take a famous poem, break it down to its parts of speech, and then use that form as a sort of inspirational madlib to create a draft for a new poem. For example, taking the opening lines of “Disillusionment Of Ten O'clock” by Wallace Stevens:

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.

 

one would get


:article: :plural noun: :verb to be: :adjective/past participle:

:preposition: :adjective: :plural noun:.

:pronoun: :verb to be: :adjective:

:conjunction: :adjective: :preposition: :adjective: :plural noun:

:conjunction: :adjective: :preposition: :adjective: :plural noun:

:conjunction: :adjective: :preposition: :adjective: :plural noun:.


and then fill in the blanks, focusing on a completely different topic than Stevens, but using his phrasing to create a new piece. The purpose of this prompt, of course, is to teach students to think in terms of phrasing, and to explore non-formal phrasings which clearly work and get them to ask why or how they work. Also, lessons like this teach the importance of word choice with in a phrase, line and poem. This sort of exercise can produce some very stunning poems; however, no matter how successful the new piece, there is still a dependence on the original poet and his or her line breaks, phrasing, etc. Has the second poet, then, stolen from the first in some way?

     Another example would be poets who take a line or stanza from another poet, and then create an entirely new piece based on that line. Sometimes the line is used as an epigraph, or the opening line, or imbedded in the poem itself in quotation marks and possibly a footnote acknowledging the original author. Sometimes, though, there is no acknowledgment at all. Has the second author, then, stolen something from the first?

     I am brought to the idea of jazz music, and things like covers and standards. These are tunes that are famous for the fact that their multiple versions and interpretations, no two alike. They are widely known by jazz musicians and enthusiasts, and need no acknowledgment beyond, perhaps, a liner note. No one in the jazz community, for example, eschews Miles Davis or Ella Fitzgerald for their versions of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight,” but appreciate and celebrate the aspects which they brought to the piece. In the same way, as a poet who has lines taken for inspiration, I do not begrudge the poets who have used my lines for inspiration, but take the compliment and celebrate the new takes which those other poets bring to the words.

On the other hand, as a poet who has taken lines and phrasings from other poets, I do not feel as though I am thieving from those other poets, but simply adding my take to their standards. To extend the metaphor, I am simply taking their basic chord progression or melody and adding my own nuances to it to create an entirely new piece. Either way, no crime has been committed.

     At what point, then, does this become an issue? I’m thinking here about certain ideas like Cut-Ups and Found Poetry. Cut-Ups are literary aleatorisms based on the destruction and reconstruction of other texts. In the most basic form, a person takes a text, such as a page in a book, and literally cuts it into four pieces, then rearranges those pieces to create a new text based on disjointed sentence structure and new combinations of language. It is a technique popularized by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, but can be traced back to experiments by surrealist artists in the 20s and 30s. The issue, of course, is whether or not this new piece can, in anyway, be considered a theft from the original text or author? To what point must the text be deconstructed for it to be considered an original piece. For example, what if I take the following passage from Ecclesiates:

 

 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

 

and cut it into quarters, and rearrange it as a poem using minor edits and line breaks:

 

Rivers come, thither they return

again. All things are full of vanity

saith the Preacher, vanity of seeing,

the ear filled with hearing, the labor

which he taketh under the sun. One

which is done is that which shall be

done: and but the earth abideth forever.

The sun also: whereof it may be said, See,

this is new? It hath where he arose.

The wind goeth toward the south, and there

is no remembrance of former things; neither

shall the wind returneth again according

to vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man

of all his sea not full: unto the place from whence

the generation passeth away, and another generation

cometh of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye

is not satisfied, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth

to his place thing that hath been, it is that which shall be

etc.

 

Ignoring the weak line breaks and lack of craft in this piece for the sake of example, have I stolen something? While the KJV is not a copyright text, what if, instead, I took a paragraph from Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and did the same thing? Have I created a new poem or have I committed a plagiaristic crime?

 

Found poems are even more tricky. In a found poem, the poet simply lifts entire words, phrases and sections from another text (usually not a poem), then frames them as poetry using minor word changes and line breaks. A great example of this is Hart Seeley’s “The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld,” which takes exact sentences, word for word, from Rumsfeld’s speeches and presents them with line breaks as poetry. Has Seeley stolen from Rumsfeld? What if, instead of political speeches, Seeley had chosen a literary text under copyright? Would the inserted line breaks be enough to create a new work?

 

I am encouraged by Eliot Khalil Wilson’s thoughts that one does not own language, but I’m also trepidacious when it comes to submitting the successful results of more experimental forms like cut-ups and found poems for publication. As a poet, I don’t make enough money to get sued, but do feel that I have created new texts based on current works that, though they maintain some allegiance to the original text, are unique enough to stand on their own. I’m curious to know where others stand on these sorts of issues or if anyone even thinks about them at all.

Having finished a review of the Rhysling nominated poems, I figured I should attempt to tackle the Dwarf Star nominees as well; however, having been offhandedly blamed for affecting the outcome of the Rhyslings, I wanted to wait until after the votes were tallied and the winners announced before I posted.  Also, instead of having readers wade through twenty some odd small posts, I figured one big post might do the trick, but LJ wont let me do that. :::BIG POUT::: So I'll break it into three. As always, readers are begged to comment and defend their favorites.

To explain the color coding, this means it's not at all a consideration; this means it might work for someone, but not for me; and this means it's a finalist in my opinion. So, here then, is my poem by poem critique of the 2009 Dwarf Star Anthology

Poem by poem, my thoughts on the 2009 Dwarf Star AnthologyCollapse )



So there it is, the 2009 Dwarf Star anthology. I must say that I'm a bit upset with the selection this year: 10 potential winners, and 6 maybes...that's not a lot for a finalist anthology.

Stepping Up To The Plate, Part 23

Go here to see what I'm doing and why. All readers are invited, encouraged, and begged to respond. The purpose of this experiment is to engage in discussion.

"On Waking" by Marcie Tentchoff

This is one of those "And they lived happily ever after. Then, the next day happened." poems, which is always a fun take on fairy tales, folklore and the like. I think this is a solid poem, and one that has a few good moments. The language, though simple, is tight, though perhaps one could comment on the heavy use of adjectives. There were times when they seemed obvious, but I'm wondering how much of that was to fully participate or connect with the language of fairy tales in general, and perhaps even ironically, and so I'm willing to forgive such things as ""handsome, dashing/grinning hero's arms" which, though cliche, could be taken in a tone of mocking. Also, some of the line breaks are really quite effective, especially in the first stanza, where "visor lifted up to show full/princely lips..." creates a nice dual meaning for the line. This piece clearly works, and though it wasn't a particular favorite, I think the theme was potent, and I certainly could understand how this poem was nominated.

"Lessons in Thermodynamics" by Catherynne M. Valente

The issue with having more than one poem by a poet in anthologies like this is that readers are able to see what the poet is capable of in their stronger poems, so their weaker poems stand out that much more. This is the case with "Lessons in Termodynamics," which though it contains some very strong images, is punctuated by some weak lines and cliche language. Now, to be fair, some of this language could be there to participate in the mythic tone of the poem: "She burned for them,/red of mouth,/red of lobe,/red of spleen." Which makes sense, and also keeps within the oral tradition of myth as well. However, lines like "Trickster took me up/from the bed of the sun/where his golden arms/clamped me jealously" seem to fall on the other side of this line. The other issue is one of weak lines, especially those which call attention to themselves. Lines like, "or a bed" and "hungrily in" don't seem to add anything to the poem, but do call attention to themselves with their shortness when compared with the rest of the stanza. This is not to say that all Valente's short lines don't work. There are examples, such as "There is a story I want to tell you./It ends:"  where the short line and the attention it calls to itself with its shortness, actually acheives some sort of tension within the poem. These cases, though, are unfortunately rare exceptions, and this poems wants for more. When compared with other poems in the anthology, and especially some of Valente's other pieces, this poem just doesn't hold up.


"The Sea Wife" by JoSelle Vanderhooft

My issue with poems like this is that, in addressing them to a specific person, I automatically feel alienated. It's a personal thing, I realize, and there is clearly a tradition of poems addressed to specific audiences. It's also something I've seen Vanderhooft do in other pieces, so I realize it is one of her chosen approaches. That being said, the constant "Tell me, husband" pushes me away, and I'm further alienated by pleads like "Surely, you can give me this, my lord." My other issue with this piece are some of the obvious image choices. Lines like "so I may smell the salt and feel the wind" or "behind the line where tide meets night and day" seem too evident by the scene, and don't seem carried any further or made unique by the poem, as opposed to a metaphor like "and swimming was my only needle work," which takes two of the obvious images from the story, but juxtaposes them against each other quite effectively. I am left wishing for more of this when I'm done with the poem. All in all, while I see the potential of this poem, I'm not sure it's a finalist.

"Through the Looking-Glass, Darkly" by Stephen Wilson

While the form chosen for this piece, with it's odd line breaks and streched out words, actually worked with the content of the poem, it still was distracting. I realize, though that was the point, and that the reader was not supposed to feel comfortable with this poem. Still, there were times that, in making these decisions, Wilson lost me as a reader from the content, and had me focusing too much on the form itself, which is never a good thing. There were other times, though, when the form forced me to reread sections of the poem, which I think works well, especially considering the circular nature of the poem's topic. Also, the idea of Alice in Wonderland as either a drug trip or a vision of madness is such a cliche that they made a video game out of it, so the whole metaphor of the poem automatically fails for me. Also, imposing other stories and myths on top of Alice, such as The Wizard of Oz, seems only to muddy the metaphor, weakening the poem further, especially when those impositions are themselves cliche, as in "sacrificial lamb". These, more than the form, cause me to see this poem as less than successful, and certainly not a finalist for the Rhysling.

Rhysling Eligible Poems for 2009

To anyone looking for poems of mine to nominate, or just looking for a poem to put on their ballot, here is everything I published in 2009 that's Rhysling Eligible. A lot of these are available on-line, so take a look.

LONG POEM (50+ Lines)
  • “Snow, Blood, Night,”New Myths, June 2009

SHORT POEM (1-49 Lines)
  • Expressions, Feb. 2009
    • "where a planet”
    • “patrol vehicle”
    • “the holes”
    • “nebulae”
    • “What in those distant fires”
  • “past this landing pad” Mindflights, Feb. 2009
  • “shattered stained glass” Niteblade, March 2009
  • “evening prayers” Not One Of Us, April 2009
  • “through the branches” Mindflights, April 2009
  • “'La Loteria de San Leonardo” Steampunk Magazine Vol. 6
  • “Raqs Sharqi” Goblin Fruit, Summer 2009
  • “Ghazal” Star*Line, September 2009
  • “The New Bestiary” Aoife’s Kiss September 2009
  • “Argot” Goblin Fruit, Fall 2009
  • “Vincent Parson, Aerohamaxeus” Goblin Fruit, Fall 2009
  • “All Underneath the Eildon Tree” Scheherezade's Bequest, September 2009
  • “The Flowers of Europa” Shelter of Daylight Anthology October 2009
  • “bubbling swamp” Fear and Trembling, October 2009
  • “the sea spits up” Scifaikuest November 2009
  • “electronics store--” Scifaikuest, November 2009
  • “fleeing tourist boat” Scifaikuest, November 2009
  • “Drosera” The Book of Tentacles Anthology, November 2009
  • “calliope whine” Tales of World War Z, December 2009
  • “scabrous eyelids” Tales of World War Z, December 2009
  • “shoulder bitten” Tales of World War Z, December 2009
  • “The Lullaby of Aengus” Mindflights, December 2009
  • Twisted Tongue 14:
    • "car alarms"
    • "winter beach"
    • "rations low"
    • "civilian outpost"
    • "trying the breakers"
  • "Christmas Eve," Fear and Trembling, Dec 2009

Stepping Up To The Plate, Part 22

Go here to see what I'm doing and why. All readers are invited, encouraged, and begged to respond. The purpose of this experiment is to engage in discussion.

"Isotope Ballerina" by Cornelius Fortune


There are a few memorable lines in this piece like "her image goes ghost," but for the most part, there is a lot of narrative and summary, and not too much imagery, as in "Once a solar year a girl is chosen to perform The Ritual//giving life to the planet, replenishing by sacrificing vital/energy translated from movement, to dance,/to life-giving energy" Call it plot exposition or plot summary or just plain sloppy, this sort of writing does not belong in an award winning poem. The conversation in the penultimate stanza is further writing that reads as merely prose sliced into unrhythmic, weakly broken lines masquerading as poetry. Again, this sort of writing just doesn't make the mark for award winning poetry.

"Reveal" by Linda Hogan

Ugh...abstraction abounds in this poem, to the point that the few strong images, such as "as if a human is a plant that opens only at night" are buried in vague obscurity, as in "from the lives and deaths of other worlds/so small in the galaxy of immortal beings,/passions so seemingly large," or "and then there is the remembering/the parts unknown and the knowledge/of science that says/there is no true sight of the world." This ambiguous and occasionally enigmatic  language only serves to distance the reader from the poem, and thus, distance the poem from any sort of worthiness of a Rhysling.

"Man'yoshu at Galactic Edge: Poems from the Courtesan" by Deborah P. Kolodji

What I love about this piece is the juxtaposition between the italicized tanka which echo the original Man'yoshu and the description that lead up to them. However, the sections between each italicized tanka, though effectively juxtaposed, often left a bit to be desired. There was a lot of summary, almost as though Kolodji were rushing towards the next tanka, and not enough imagery to sustain some of the stanzas, as in

Tri-sec planet dwellers
do everything in threes,
and sometimes she indulges them
by spotting one of their partners.
The acts are complicated
and she doesn't always
get the moves right, but the tips
are good, whether we speak
of physical or monetary kings...

The vague descriptions, "tips are good" or "acts are complicated" seem to gloss over the potency that solid imagery could provide, and thus the language and tension in the lines seems lax, and the poem reads as uneven.

"Another Fairy Tale Ending" by Marcy Rockwell

I understand what Rockwell is doing here, and if one glosses over what actually seem like necessary cliches, such as a prince coming with his "lance" to save the princess, and treat them with the dark irony with which Rockwell seems to intend them this poem is successful on a few levels. What I particularly enjoyed was the layering of themes which Rockwell was able to achieve through her images, exploring the potential of speculative poetry. Though not necessarily as an objective craft issue as image or meter, the ability to add depth to a poem through its narrative is a skill that many poets would be wise to hone. Rockwells allusive twists, as in lines like "And though she had not been sleeping/She spiraled deeper into nightmare" are quite effective as well. That being said, there were a few iffy line breaks. For example, the second line "At the ball" does not seem to serve the poem as a lone entity, and only calls attention to itself. Unless Rockwell was making a pun on the word "ball," which I don't see evidenced in the narrative, such line breaks throw the poem off for me. Other odd line choices seem to unbalance this poem only to detract from the overall success of the piece, resulting in a final product of only mediocre triumph.

New Pieces Published

One thing that's absolutely brilliant about internet publications is that many of them have forums or discussion boards for each poem where readers can post their immediate responses. To that end, I have three new publications, all of which you can comment on.

Please go here:

http://www.mindflights.com/item.php?sub_id=5932

to see my newest published poem. Also, if you go here:

http://www.mindflights.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=3206

you can leave a comment, critique, review, etc.

The other two can be found here:

http://www.talesofworldwarz.com/stories/2009/12/09/zombie-haiku-by-joshua-gage/#comments
http://www.oystersandchocolate.com/Poetry/1822/Edacious.aspx


So yeah, abuse ye olde interwebs and leave comments, please!

Blacklisted?

A question to editors (and anyone else, really) that read this blog:

If you knew that you weren't going to publish someone based on some previous experience with them, i.e., if they were blacklisted from your publication, would you tell them so in your response to their manuscript? Or would you let them keep submitting, and simply reject them with a standard form rejection? I'm curious because I know I've burned a few bridges with my critiques, both of journals and of the Rhysling anthology, so I'm just wondering what the standard approach is.

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