Link roundup: Tenrecs, monostiches, kale and other wonders

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

The New York Times:When Democracy Weakens
Bob Herbert wishes Americans would take a cue from the Egyptians.

NPR: “An Immigrant’s Quest For Identity In The ‘Open City’
I have been reading the glowing reviews for Teju Cole’s new novel with great pleasure, but it was especially fun to hear this interview come on the radio while I was kneading bread this morning. I was all like, “Hey, I know that guy! I’ve published his stuff at Via Negativa and qarrtsiluni!” So good to see a member of the old blog neighborhood make it big.

Grant Hackett: Monostich Poet blog
I don’t link Grant’s poems in the Smorgasblog because they’re too short to excerpt — a monostich is a one-line poem and he excels at them. I don’t know anyone who packs more mystery and suggestiveness into such a small space. He used to blog at Falling Off the Mountain, but took that site offline late last year. On the new site, he seems to post at the rate of about one or two poems a day.

Moving Poems forum: “What comes first, the video or the poem?
Check out the variety of responses to my question from videopoets at all skill levels. I am going to have to remember to throw out questions to the community like this more often.

Voice Alpha:To read or to recite? Dramatic versus Epic
Dick Jones — poet, musician and retired drama teacher — wades into the debate about how best to present one’s poems to a crowd. Surprisingly, perhaps, given his background, he comes down rather decisively on the side of reading.

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 57 with Rebecca in the Woods
Rebecca is one of the best young naturalist-bloggers out there, so we are very lucky to have her as host of the next Festival of the Trees.

Linebreak: “To Failure:” by Christopher Ankney
My first reading for Linebreak, a magazine I admire. Don’t know the poet from Adam, but I know the subject all too well! It was fun to learn the poem this way, over a series of half a dozen takes, even if I was a bit too tired to give it as good a reading as it deserves.

BBC Earth News: “Madagascar’s elusive shell-squatting spider filmed
Speaking of failure, check out the first spider in this clip from the redoubtable David Attenborough & co. (a win for photography and evolution). Then there’s…
Bizarre mammals filmed calling using their quills
Tenrecs! Stridulating!


(Watch on YouTube)
In a rare trip off the mountain, a chance remark at the coffee shop led me to discover that I was surrounded by fellow kale afficionados, and one of them later sent me the link to this video. What used to be an obscure vegetable back when we started growing it in the garden in the early 70s has now apparently achieved cult status. Who’d have thunk it?

Link roundup: Cloud Studies, Nabokov’s blues, beech trees and other curiosities

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I share a lot of links on Facebook. This is some of what I’ve shared since last Monday, with the exception of links to new posts on qarrtsiluni, Moving Poems, Woodrat Photoblog, The Morning Porch, and here on VN. (Have to wonder how many of my Facebook contacts have blocked my posts by now!)

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Poetry for the Masses has a new website with PDFs of recent broadsheets. These aren’t the arty kind of broadsheets that cost $40 apiece, but the true, 18th-century kind designed for mass distribution.

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Cloud Studies — a sonnet sequence
Take a half-hour to listen to these extraordinary poems by Christine Klocek-Lim, Whale Sound’s most impressive audio chapbook yet. (And that’s saying a lot, because the first two also kicked ass.)

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Treeblog: Festival of the Trees 56
What is it about trees that evokes such interesting responses from such a broad range of people?

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New York Times: “Nabokov Theory on Polyommatus Blue Butterflies Is Vindicated” by the always wonderful Carl Zimmer. “Nabokov was right – so was Stephen Jay Gould wrong?” asks Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera. Yes, turns out he was. Which makes me happy, because Gould was a very over-rated writer and a pompous ass.

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The Onion: “Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth”
To me, this is masterful satire not because it makes Republicans look like bigger fools than Democrats, but because it so effectively skewers the absurd and narcissistic parochialism of American politics.

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Voice Alpha: “To read or to recite?”
My simple question about public poetry performance theory elicits a number of quite varied and passionate responses.

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the cassandra pages: “Down for the Gender Count…or is it Up?”
Beth Adams finds that qarrtsiluni’s gender gap continues to widen. She quotes me on the importance of having a schlong.

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Poetry Daily: “Naked I Come, Naked I Go,” by Marilyn Chin
If you’re a fan of the late poet Ai, check out this wonderful tribute/imitation by Marilyn Chin. (The last lines are a reference to the fact that Ai never learned to drive.)

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Marcia Bonta: “The Beautiful Beech”
My mom’s monthly nature column. For once, she picked a subject I had no trouble illustrating with my own photos — one of my favorite trees.

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(watch on YouTube)
The ultimate annoying little sister (brother?). This is one of the latest captures from the den cam in Minnesota, showing an unusual multi-age black bear family (Hope is one year old, her siblings just a couple weeks old).

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Writing Our Way Home is a new online community I’ve joined. Founded by British blogger, novelist, and writing coach Fiona Robyn and her fiance Kaspalita, a Buddhist priest and the resident tech guru, it’s for people interested in writing with attention, especially in the form they call “small stones“: “short pieces of writing that precisely capture a fully-engaged moment.” Since this is obviously something I’ve been trying to do at The Morning Porch for quite some time, I couldn’t not join, despite feeling already a bit over-committed online. The site uses Ning, and has most of the same functionality as Facebook, only easier to figure out: groups, forums, personal pages with walls (and blogs), etc. Do join if this interests you. I’ve been interacting with Fiona online for quite a few years, and she even edited an issue of qarrtsiluni once for us — the only solo editor ever to do so — so I am fairly confident in predicting that this community will still be around five years from now if she has anything to do with it.

How to Read a Poem

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

How to read it, that intangible squat object in the plaza of Literature, Inc. that forces us to take a circuitous route to the door? We scan it uneasily looking for something we know. Does it mark us as rubes, to say a poem straight? Should it not be chanted like a Latin Mass, or the Quran in an Arabic no one actually speaks? Should we commit its every syllable to memory like Chinese reciting Li Bai, the 1300-year-old lines turned incomprehensible in Mandarin by the homonymic convergence of once-divergent words? Time eventually translates all poems into pure rhythmic babble, as open to interpretation as the surf. Why fight it? Why impose one possible reading out of many? The choices seem so arbitrary: how studied or how spontaneous, that catch in the breath, a half-second pause before the interrogatory rise. What if we ignored the doors to Literature, Inc. and let ourselves forget whatever it was we thought we came to read? Try it. Try squatting on your haunches to watch the pigeons, heads nodding as they walk, that self-important bob. Let the poem open on its own. Try turning your mouth into an ear.

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For more concrete advice, join the discussion at Voice Alpha blog, which is all about reading poetry aloud for an audience. We’re even offering free advice in the form of a poetry-reading agony column (or would like to, if anyone screws up the courage to actually write us). The most recent post, by Kristin Berkey-Abbott: “Make Your Poetry Reading More Like a Festive Party than a Forced Eating of Rutabagas.” My own most recent contribution asks, “Can a good poetry reading get you laid?