Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Ode to Tom Baker's Scarf

dear scarf of tom baker,
you are amazing in all your ridiculousness.
it astounds even the likes of that silly hat romana is wearing!
indeed it does.
love and affection,

ps how offended would you be if i used labor methods to reproduce you once, maybe twice...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

the pony tale

first the hair was much in length
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then the girl decided it was time

so she asked her mother to cut if all off

which she did, and it was funny

and in the end, everything was good and happy! (yeah pacman!)

The Discovery

**read previous post first**

Previously I explored the difference between prose and poetry through optics, taking cues from Stein and Zukofsky. In Zukofsky’s poetics he not only dealt with the idea of poetry as an optical lens, he also responded to the necessity of labor in poetry. As anyone reading my collection (as it is presented here) should have noticed, there is a reoccurring figure—the robot.

What actually prompted me to finally look up the history of the word *robot* was an episode of Doctor Who (Pyramids of Mars). Tom Baker’s doctor goes back in time to 1911 where/when an ancient evil Egyptian god is using robots wrapped up in mummy costumes and mind control to free himself from his imprisonment. The Doctor points out that the local gentleman from 1911 would not know the word robot. I decided to find out when the word robot was born. As it turns out, the word Robot was not invented until 1921, and not imported into the English language until 1923—of course, the Doctor was right.

What was even more interesting to me than the date of the word’s origins was the root words that have been merged to create the word Robot.

The history of the word reads like this:
Robot is a word that is both a coinage by an individual person and a borrowing. It has been in English since 1923 when the Czech writer Karel Capek's play R.U.R. was translated into English and presented in London and New York. R.U.R., published in 1921, is an abbreviation of Rossum's Universal Robots; robot itself comes from Czech robota, “servitude, forced labor,” from rab, “slave.” The Slavic root behind robota is orb-, from the Indo-European root *orbh-, referring to separation from one's group or passing out of one sphere of ownership into another. This seems to be the sense that binds together its somewhat diverse group of derivatives, which includes Greek orphanos, “orphan,” Latin orbus, “orphaned,” and German Erbe, “inheritance,” in addition to the Slavic word for slave mentioned above. Czech robota is also similar to another German derivative of this root, namely Arbeit, “work” (its Middle High German form arabeit is even more like the Czech word). Arbeit may be descended from a word that meant “slave labor,” and later generalized to just “labor.”

Like Zukofsky, I have incorporated the nature of labor—the robot—and the nature of physics/optics into the proverbial batter of poetry.

I wanted to share this discovery first, before digesting it thoroughly. Perhaps some discussion will prompt me towards some conclusion.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

poetics part one

**This is the official introduction to my collection entitled PoemTree. In order to understand what i want/need to reflect on here (building upon a recent discovery), these theories are key (for those interested in following the saga).**

While this collection of poetry evolved into its current form, Professor Jennison and I began to talk about the recurring characters within it. She cleverly led me into questioning why I had written a collection of poems instead of a narrative piece if I felt so strongly about the character development. In order to answer such a mammoth question I had to first decipher the difference between a novel and a collection of poetry.

Making a distinction between the two literary forms was no simple task due to the modern blurring of the genres in the forms of prose poetry, poetic prose and the development or degeneration of the English language. I began by referring to, obsessively, various poets’ work on the matter of defining poetry and giving justification to their work. My hunt for the answer to my ultimate question of ‘what is poetry’ lead me into the laps of Wallace Stevens’ “Adagia” and parts of John Cage’s Themes & Variations in which both notable poets filled pages with aphorisms and little truths about poetry. These postulates, however meaningful they might be, fell short when it came to defining the genre of poetry.

Exploring further I settled on Gertrude Stein’s Composition and Explanation which digests the notion of all reality down to the reality of composition. Where Stein writes, “everything is the same except composition and as the composition is different and always going to be different everything is not the same,” was where I began to realize the differences between narrative and poetry immerges when we study the composition or either form. Holding Gertrude by the hand I moved forward into Louis Zukofsky’s An Objective, an essay which examines the balance between the writer and the reader perspectives, histories and efforts in the art of poetic transactions. Zukofsky’s analogy to poetry as an optical lens which brings “rays from an object to a focus” lit a spark in my mind using the match I had already been handed by Stein’s revelations.

By merging Stein’s concept of difference in composition and Zukofsky’s optical analysis of poetry, I eventually developed my own elaborate analogy with light as it projects through three-dimensional shapes, namely a cube and a prism. The difference between these two shapes is the way they distort light. A cube, which I compare to narrative work, such as novels, does not distort the light shown through it very much if even at all. It does not matter what sort of light you shine on it, the light will always go straight through. The prism—which is analogous to poetry—shows an array of colors separated by the path the light takes through the shape. The end-product, the rainbow, varies in spectrum depending on the light source. The light source is the individual and all of his experiences.

The novel does not rely on the light source for output; whereas the poetry, like the prism, fragments the light to reveal its components. With my analogy in hand I began to realize the importance of audience perspective as a tool for dissecting the two genres. While considering audiences, it became much easier to recognize specific differences between narrative and poetry such as length, layout of time and space, and continuity within the work.

Excluding the epic, quintessential poetry is limited in its length. This brevity allows for blank space between pages where the reader has room to interpret the words resonating in his mind. Instead of doing the work of a narrative, such as detailed descriptions of time and space, the poem relies on the work of allusions to a particular reality and the reader’s ability to fill in the blanks. Because, too, the novel is longer in length it must sustain the reader’s imagination, causing them to forget the reality of whatever sofa they sit on or whatever train they are riding. The novelist does not want the reader’s imagination to wander off between chapters. On the contrary there is the poem, which encourages wondering and does not provide a solid cube of thought. Instead, poetry hands the reader a prism with which to view the world though at that instant. A poet wants the reader to remember that article he read in the paper this morning and imaging what it would be like if, say, the article were written by an unsuccessful astronaut, or a depressed, tin robot.

I have given you a pair of prism-eyed spectacles to wear while you read about rivers and the lives of trees—what do they look like now? If I had chosen to present these characters in a narrative you would have been told about the astronaut’s failure explicitly and how that reminds us all of a worthless king amidst his revolting subjects, or I could have described to you the ebb and flow of the green river, how the rays of sun make it look alive in the morning, like a translucent serpent with feminine features—a modern Eve.

Instead, what have I done? I have alluded to the astronaut’s failure, the robot’s despair and the love of a fox. I have give the reader sips and tastes of the meal instead of the layout of the dining table or the chef’s favorite receipts. I have provided that path for the light to follow in order to escape the opposite side as a rainbow.

What the sips and tastes do in poetry is to allow events in time to occur all at once on the page. The poet never says explicitly that this event occurs before this one. To keep his audience from getting lost the novelist must provide such a timeline. In poetry, however, if everything were happening at once the human mind would become overwhelmed with this incomprehensible truth; therefore, the reader must be able to time-line the events as he deems fit.

Yet, it is impossible, as the poet, to avoid imposing a filter of my own personal experiences on my readers. Even if poetry could be dispensed in fortune cookies or plastic Easter eggs then the way in which the reader opened and read the poems would still be subject to an imposition made by chance and probability and other mathematics. Therefore, it is impossible to avoid some form of interference or bias through the delivery of the poetry. Thankfully however, even though I have done part of the work by arranging the poems in a book-format, there are still instances of overlapping in time which can be arranged in whatever order the reader’s own experiences allow. In its ideal form, poetry would be displayed as a mural is; overwhelming the reader until he can make out the finer details. In this form it can be assumed that the possibilities for variations on the work’s time-line would be as ranging as the individuals’ experiences― innumerable—and no intervention on the poet’s behalf.

The poet has less difficulty presenting an unbiased spatial layout for the collection. Because, ideally, there is no set timeline, there must be no definite landscape. This lack of landscape is yet another function which sets the collection of poetry apart from the novel. Everyone knows, for example, that Narnia can be found by walking through a specific wardrobe, but who could draw a map of Hardy’s imaginary Wessex? Even if several individuals, let’s say, could draw a convincing map of Wessex, each map would most likely be contradictory, or at lest varying, from the next. Instead, and for the same reasons as with time, the land is disorganized and disfigured until the reader draws a mental map of the world. We know there is a river and an ocean, but do they meet? How much time does it take to travel from one point to the other?

As the poet I have some control over the space, as with time, because I am responsible for creating all the elements that are expected to fit in the space. However, this space building only works if all the elements—the river, the trees, the rotting city—are meant to exist in the same space. Therefore, there is yet another level of variation when we begin to address the issue of continuity and community of poetic collections. Perhaps not all events and places exist in the same imaginary universe.

Every person exposed to the collection of poetry may come away with their own distinct reality, including a timeline and landscape which is different from one person to the next. By contrast each person who reads a novel would be more likely to agree on specific details involving time and space. In poetry, the decision to place one event after another and this item beside the other is ultimately in the hands of the reader. Each personal experience determines the interpretation of the work. The light each reader holds the prism up to determines the rays which leak out the other side.
While there are all of these differences between the narrative and poetic genres of literature, there are unavoidable similarities. Poetic, sometimes even flowery, language is often times found in novels. There are instances of ambiguity of events in some novels. There are even, as this collection of poems demonstrates, poets who build their work around the growth of characters.

The decision to represent my ideas to an audience of poetry readers as opposed to novel readers was, in part, to justifiably demand a certain level of work to be done on the reader’s part; similar to how Zukofsky demands his readers to partake in a set amount of labor while reading his or any other poetry. If I am going to spend a year creating and organizing, then I want the reader to spend a similar length of time understanding and deciphering. I have left the appropriate blank spaces on each page and given the reader specific cues to follow.

My reasoning behind allowing these pockets for readers’ thoughts comes from Stein’s Composition as Explanation; more specifically, from the concept that work “is what is seen when it seems to be being seen,” in other words, the work differs as a result of who reads it and when. This open space and allusive time-scale gives my readers some of the creative power while they read through the collection. I want everyone to create their own timeline, their own landscape, their own story based on the pieces I have lent to in this collection.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


i'm a posting junky today, try and stop me

here's a picture i came across today, adam to my right and andrea to my left

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at a lovely little indian restaurant in amherst center. they put coconut in my tikka masala by request (like it'd be any good without coconut), bless them.

having way too much fun with this

just look what it's done to my profile alone... wow. i love the internet. love it.

hellenization, named's katherine. i havana a husky, a golf andrew a brainards newsman nurses of flowery bulge in my kits. thief blockhouses thighs is forestalled my poem, to encamps me to concealing wrinkled quartets poe posterity-grafton (afund amherst), andalusian whore knot, i mayflower just blubber outward oncology in a whimsical...

oh yeah... the thingy itself is http://www.crummy.com/software/eater/

experiment 51

[Pick 20 words, either a word list you generate yourself or from source texts. Write three different poems using only these words.]

the list:

poem 1: most wanted

Lloyd, inn-keeper--
astronaut antithesis stride--

slugged wicked tangible pint helmet futon

sticking flagrant tribal retractable
forward antique upon sentient green

poem 2: message will self distruct in...


Sentient stride upon retractable futon. Sticking green pint forward. Slugged antique tribal flagrant. Helmet antithesis tangible.

Wicked Inn-keeper,

poem 3: the headlines

sentient astronaut slugged tribal inn-keeper.
green flagrant sticking Lloyd futon upon antique pint.
retractable helment!
forward stride; wicked tangible antithesis

a cartoon epidemic

ryan: tony the tiger died
katy: he's a cartoon
ryan: is that inspirational?
katy: cartoon's can't die
ryan: yes. but his voice was supplied by a man.
katy: oh
ryan: who died just this week.
katy: the man died
katy: that's sad
katy: heeeeee's greeat!
ryan: also
katy: i bet he'd like that
katy: if i said that to him
ryan: the guy who did fred flintstone's voice also died.
katy: well, at his funeral
katy: what?
katy: is there a cartoon epidemic?
ryan: atom ant died too.

yeah, so there is (an epidemic i mean), and this is what ryan tells me to inspire me to write poems...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

binary for breakfast

01101001 01110100 00100111 01110011 00100000 01110010 01100001 01101001 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101001 01110100 00100111 01110011 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110100 01100101 00100000 01101101 01100001 01111001 00001101 00001010 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101001 00100111 01101101 00100000 01110010 01100101 01100001 01100100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100001 00100000 01100010 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01110011 01100011 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01110011 01110100 01101111 01110010 01101001 01100101 01110011 00001101 00001010 01100001 01110100 00100000 00111000 00100000 01101111 00100111 01100011 01101100 01101111 01100011 01101011 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01101101 01101111 01110010 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00001101 00001010 01110111 01100001 01101001 01110100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110011 01101011 01101001 01101110 00100000 01101111 01101110 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01110111 01101111 01110101 01101110 01100100 00001101 00001010 01101111 01101110 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100010 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101000 01100101 01100001 01101100

this is actually a new poem (as opposed to the previously posted ones which have all gone through a gauntlet of revision and rewriting.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

First Step's Legend

1. beyond tanked walls;
above the water's surface;
we live where they cannot.

understand the importance of our perspective;
we have this much more
and the ability to take more,
to learn to swim.

do you want to learn how to swim?
i can teach you.
don't be afraid;
i can help you.

we have the gift of technology.
here is a lifejacket for you to wear,
so that you can float above the waves;
above and below the stars in the sea and the sky.

and if you're still scared,
i'll hold you (up) the entire time.
i promise i won't let you down.
i promise i won't let you drown.

2. once your limbs become tools
you don't need the orange vest anymore.
learn to kick and kill and eat with your hands;
learn the ways of the ocean's tide and grow into her ebb and flow.

3. we have conquered the trees, you have conquered the tides
and the fish and the weeds,
but what dwells above us?

have we yet to know?

my son,
now that you have learnt to swim, take it upon your self to grow wings;
learn to be an astronaut and take the first steps.

here is a vest to hold you up;
to help you learn new traits;
your body, to become a new tool.

hold your breath again, like when you learned to swim;
feel the sway and swagger of the waves;
she is a mightier ocean than any, this sky,
and her stars are brighter.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Toothbrush Fancy

Polly, do you want this toothbrush?

I don't talk in my sleep anymore.

I still have all the same nightmares...
and dreams...
but I’ve learned to make them quieter.

I have a blue one just like it.

The dentist gave me two, i don't know why,
and I was too afraid to ask.

so, do you? if you don't, i think that's okay.

Just say so.

Of course, you know i didn't mean anything by it,
of course.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Green Coincidence

My husband and I had gone to Washington state, to the Snoqualmie Valley, for a Twin Peaks festival in late July. We stayed on the Snoqualmie River in a humble campground in a humble town at the bottom of a not-so-humble mountain. As usual I was inspired by the nature around me; the blackberries were ripe for eating off the bush, the river was unforgiving in her temperature even in mid-summer and green with algae and minerals from the mountain’s eroded edges. I began to write in my notebook, describing the green river as a spirit, a life-giver and a woman of magnificent beauty and power. The Green River Woman was born then. I left Snoqualmie with a new character, and new poem to write, though the words never gelled into that perfect poem. Perhaps, still, it is one of those poems that will take me a lifetime to write.

I struggled, daily, with giving life or justice to the words describing the river and her magnificence. I looked to Louise Erdrich’s strong native language for clues. Instead I started writing poems about rocks in little girls’ pockets, pretending they were ancestors instead of rocks:

I am swimming with you,
A pocket full of stones,
Up the river, towards her source.

Still, I was unable to address the issue of the river herself.

Ultimatly, for help I looked to fellow novice poets on Zoetrope.com—an online poetry/fiction community designed to constructively aid other poets and writers. It was through Zoetrope I received an innocent message that created a new nebula in the universe of my poetry. Something about a green river killer… Something I had to investigate immediately.

As it turned out there was a man nicknamed The Green River Killer who, during the span of 16 years (from 1982-1998), kidnapped, raped and killed 48 young, female prostitutes. Here is where the chills began to run, relentlessly down my spine. The local people of Snoqualmie call their river The Green River. This is not surprising as the river was and is, truly, the most magnificent green. But I learned that this Green River Killer hid the bodies of these young women in the river by filling their clothes with rocks. “A pocket full of stones” must mean that girl, this “I”, is not swimming at all.

Without knowing, I had delved into a legacy of murder and mystery novels. I had tapped into some higher conscious, perhaps. That river, that Green River Woman, had she reached to me for understanding, for truth, for discovery? I’ll have to ask her when I go back in a few months. To reach deep into her ice-cold flow, to the rich green and the unforgiving soil beneath her, to feel what I felt before but this time knowing what it means.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Green River Girl

simple girl sits by the river
her fingertips trying to touch
the bottom without getting wet

she is swimming with you,
green river women,
towards the bridge
below the service of men

where your favors to them,
those boys who brought you
to the edge of this green river,
fell short of breath by force

then a pocket full of stones;
their grandmothers
and their grandfathers.

she feels these reflections
floating past each finger
while some sun
tints the river green

Thursday, May 12, 2005

the best two fortunes ever

last night a few of my friends treated me to a lovely sushi dinner. there i recived a fortune cookie with the following fortune: "Happiness always acconpanies with you."
in one of my friend's cookies, he got this fortune: "You will take a chance in something in near future."
revel in their brilliance, friends.

Friday, May 06, 2005

... .-- .- .-.. .-.. --- .-- / ... --- -. --. /

.-- .... .. .-.. . / - .... . / .-- --- .-. .-.. -.. / ... --- ..- .-. ... /
.- / .-. --- -... --- - / .. -- .. - .- - . ... / - .... . / ... --- -. --. /
--- ..-. / . ..- .-. --- .--. . .- -. / ... .-- .- .-.. .-.. --- .-- ... /

see http://scphillips.com/morse/trans.html

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Set Up

too thin the red-bound book
unfolded in his hands
shaking white with blue anticipation
but a voice of the bravest mirage
echoing the pauses
in a juggle of um’s and ah’s
the irregularity of reality is revealed
in a little girl’s dream kitchen

she hesitates first
to turn her back to the dark avatar
the second, to walk away
so she turns her head
one last time, for the first time
to see her reflection in his green-river eyes
a mix of admiration, thanks, and regret

shelves rise, fall and grow back
but through them they catch each other again
through a veil of thick, black, Indian-girl hair
and a coalition of light waves and sound fibers

this is how the dream ends:
with a paralyzing stare
into cold, hollow, ice-blue--
all the vividness of shivering--eyes
hidden behind curtains of locked extensions
straightened with fatigue and grease

the look: desperate
in it she feels him sing his apology
had he only known her sooner

they could have been something
instead, "see what i'm into?"--
the only spoken, his voice choking
as he applies the chain to air and throat

The Dishes

What I am thinking about
On this beautiful summer morning
Is how I haven’t washed the dishes yet;
How I’ve left them there
Scattered around the sink for yet another day.
By now it doesn’t matter—
What’s stuck to them can’t get any more stuck on.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Robot Crow

this is no place for the rooster
so a robot demands
to the rebellion of cows
and their mischievous offspring

after all, what would the bull
and the flock of hens
have to think and say
about such a scandal?

but what concern
does a robot have
with barn-yard gossips?
asked a busty brown cow

perhaps the obsessive compulsion
of wires, triggers, switches and gears
to keep ideal order inside a fence
or is he a messenger from the chicken coop?