Reading Dawkins

John Miedema:

You can make a bold claim — God is a delusion — if you exclude all good thinking on the subject and only focus on a straw man. Like Dawkins, I reject the fairy tale and instead use religion poetically. Thing is, we are not all eloquent poets. Many theists use the language of religious tradition but the essence of their belief is the same awe at the grandness of nature. I dusted off my old Psalter Hymnal and its Confession of Faith begins by saying that we know God by the “creation, preservation, and governance of the universe”.

Micro-Journaling and the 10-Mile App

Open Book Lab:

Location is almost the whole of meaning. Where you are pretty much defines what you are. This is not a new idea. Twitter and most mobile apps feature location data. There are limits to this feature. You can note the writer’s location if they have shared it, but you are remote. The Morning Porch improves on this by making location more than just metadata. The porch is literally the stage for the message. It adds a texture to the observations not found elsewhere. Each detail adds to the experience so you feel you know the porch and can see from it.

Blogosphere blessings

Linda at The Task at Hand — one of my favorite destinations for creative nonfiction — wrote a post last Sunday titled “A Blogosphere Blessing,” in which she compared the welcoming links and comments of readers and fellow bloggers back when she started blogging to the house-warming parties of her youth in the American Midwest. With that in mind, I’d like to take a little time today to welcome some new (or newly returned) bloggers to the virtual neighborhood.

1. Ann E. Michael’s eponymous blog: “Poetry, nature, and speculative philosophical musings”

Pennsylvania poet Ann Michael began blogging back in September, so she’s not quite brand new, but she’s taken to it like the proverbial duck to water with thought-provoking, gracefully written posts on just the sort of topics likely to be of most interest to Via Negativa readers. A typical Ann E. Michael blog post might have her comparing Martin Buber, C. S. Lewis and Emily Dickinson, weighing the benefits of Lawn vs. meadow, and a doe, or musing on the appeal of the Christmas carol “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

I’m not a good singer myself, but I can sing this carol. The range works for most of us.

But that wasn’t what struck me this morning as the music surrounded me in my car en route to work. What I noticed—felt, in my marrow—is the sense of yearning in this carol. There is something particularly human in the minor-key longing for release, relief, joy, escape, liberty, union with a beloved other, desire that is both physical and spiritual, the yearning for renewal. Not hope but the desire, the longing for hope.

2. bint batutta: “crossing cultures”

From the About page:

My name is Ayesha, and I’m a translator and writer. I used to blog here. I was born in India and grew up in Britain, and I currently live in Bahrain.

Friends gave me the nickname Bint Battuta (after Ibn Battuta) because I used to travel a lot. These days my journeys take a different form. I love to read, and explore ideas. I’m particularly interested in history, and the spaces where cultures meet.

Since its rebirth on December 1, bint batutta has been a real cabinet of curiosities, with posts on the jalboot, the “Afghan” cameleers of Australia, the use of the Arabic script in Africa for languages other than Arabic, and more.

3. VidPoFilm: “the Poetics of Video and Film Poetry”

I love videopoetry and film-poetry, but I tend to have a hard time explaining why. My own site Moving Poems is therefore mainly a glorified links blog, an embedded video being a fancy kind of link. Brenda Clews goes much more in depth at VidPoFilm. And while my site is set up to focus on the poets, Brenda’s spotlight is square on the films/videos themselves. Here she is for instance on a film called Ground, by Ginnetta Correlli for a haiku series by Scottish artist (and film-poem maker) Alastair Cook:

This is a surreal filmpoem; it has a European art film feel to it. Like when watching an Almodóvar, forget logic, for a rational approach to understanding won’t reveal anything. As you seek to embrace the meaning of the film, you find mindfulness here like a Zen koan.

You can’t quite put it together. Rather, feel the deep angst the film produces. That’s where the film is unfolding in your consciousness as a message, a predicament, a riddler of the paradoxes of life.

VidPoFilm also has monthly group shows for online videopoets to share their favorite creations, theoretical commentary and more.

4. 如 (thus) 是: “¡Ay, quién podrá sanarme!”

Seon Joon is an American Buddhist nun in Korea who has been keeping a photoblog, from this shore, for several years now (and before that, blogged at a now-defunct site called Ditch the Raft). She just graduated from a four-year Buddhist seminary, which meant she’d have a little more time to blog — thus thus, which seems to be more a place for literary writings so far. Her “small stones” for the January river of stones writing challenge rank among the best I’ve seen:

Loud voices mask the night’s quiet. Where the lamplight ends the dark is present, pressing, patient, animal-like, before words.
(Jan. 3)

The sun slips away, like a face disappearing under dark velvet blankets. The temperature falls. I shiver, pull my hat down close.
(Jan. 9)

Winter rain, cold, hard, quiet, steady all day. Inside, behind curtains, I want the rain’s impassive clarity: only fall straight.
(Jan. 19)

Overnight, the world accumulates a white rime. 4 a.m. I float in the faint glow reflected over and over between snow and clouds.
(Jan. 25)

[updated to add] 5. A year of Mt. Tamalpais: “dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden”
See my review here.

Please stop by these sites today or this weekend and join me in welcoming them to the blogosphere.


Via Negativa and its sister sites are also on the receiving end of some serious blessings from information technology architect, blogger and slow-reading expert John Miedema. John just released a major new version of his popular OpenBook WordPress plugin, which provides a convenient way for book reviewers to pull in a book-cover image, author, and other book data from Open Library (a site which I’ve used extensively during my April poetry-book-a-day marathons, due to its wealth of links and the ease with which one can add books not already in its database). Openbook 3.2 includes a number of new features, among them a donate button on the settings page of one’s WordPress dashboard. Many authors of free plugins include such buttons, as well they should. But John decided to have his button support something other than his own efforts.

If you click the new button on the settings page it will take you to a new page on the OpenBook support wiki, “Pay it Forward for Literacy.” On that page I recommend supporting the literary website, Via Negativa. Dave Bonta is a poet and editor from Pennsylvania. He maintains four excellent sites that I have followed for years. He is also a writer and editor of Qarrtsiluni, a literary magazine. Countless volunteer hours have generated an enthusiastic following. You can support hosting and domain registration costs and keep these great literary sites going.

To say I’m honored by this wouldn’t begin to describe it. Flabbergasted is more like it. I mean, wow. As the son of an academic reference librarian (who continues to read and believe in my work — thanks, Dad!) I am especially pleased to have the support of such a progressive, cutting-edge thinker in the world of library science. I feel — what’s the word? — blessed.

Woodrat Podcast 10: John Miedema on Slow Reading

Slow Reading cover
John Miedema talks about his book Slow Reading and the practice and experience of reading in general. Some of the questions he addresses include:

Is the length of a book an indication of profundity?

Are books mind-altering substances?

Which kinds of writing work better in print and which work better on the web?

How do you reconcile technophilia with bibliophilia?

Can slow reading flow from slow writing?

Should we persist in trying to make the web more print-like?

How should we read newspapers and magazines?

Is it possible to read too much?

Do slow readers make better citizens?

Is speed-reading on the web changing the way we think?

Does information overload matter?

How can readers get beyond being passive consumers of information or tourists of the reading experience?

Theme music: “Le grand sequoia, by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence)

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