Suppose I should update y’all on where I’ve been.
After two months unemployed and spending my every other week in somewhere not Seattle, I decided to make a spoken word album. The album will be ten tracks and available on Bandcamp.
What’s funny about this whole process is how completely and wholly I was swallowed up by the planning fallacy. One of the places I went in June was a retreat to a cabin with a friend for the purpose of writing, and I said to myself, “I’ll bring my fancy mic and record an album while I’m there!”
Reading one of my poems off the computer while recording didn’t work, because I didn’t have the spaces and measures of the poem memorized. I tried a few recordings, none of which sounded right, and then decided to memorize the poem.
A funny thing happens when you memorize a poem.
Reading a poem off the page is like dating someone. Memorizing a poem is like living (or traveling) with someone. Anyone who has done both will tell you those two are VERY different and a person you thought you loved might become unbearable because jesus christ why are you awake at six in the fucking morning or more importantly why do you feel I need to be awake too?!
Off the page, I might in a flash of insight on stage note a weakness in the poem and then come back and fix it later if I remember once I’ve left the stage. But that’s rare. Memorizing a poem on the other hand, I learn all of the poem’s details, including what time of day it takes a poo.
(Here I suppose it’s important to note that the important difference between a poem and a lover is that you can absolutely change a poem. Not so much a lover.)
Memorizing a poem, you start to learn all its flaws and idiosyncrasies.
–That line where it sounds like you’re talking about two different people when you’re talking about one?
–That stanza where you have to take a whole rest in the middle of the line to make it flow and you know what that might be fine in the fourth or fifth stanza but not in the second goddamn stanza of the poem so now those two lines are orphans looking for a home and holy fuck when I did start using a metronome to count beats in a goddamn poem?!
–That anemic last stanza? Nope. Gotta go.
–Holy crap if I love the word “of” so much why don’t I marry it.
And that’s where we stand. I have one poem completely edited (or as Auden would say, abandoned) and I am working on another poem which the more I work on the more it becomes higher maintenance. Estimated date of dropping the album? I’m shooting for September. But have you seen my planning ability? D:
Literary fiction used to be central to the culture. No more: in the digital age, not only is the physical book in decline, but the very idea of ‘difficult’ reading is being challenged. The future of the serious novel, argues Will Self, is as a specialised interest
Some thoughts I had on reading this piece. Before I get into it, a disclaimer: trying to predict the future is like trying to lick your elbow. There’s no way not to look stupid doing it. So I’ll lick anyway.
The tone of this article makes me feel schizophrenic, as one half of me (the college-educated philosophy/classics major) appreciates the diction, vocabulary, and periphrastic manner of writing. The other half rolls its eyes.
As for the argument, it’s a very interesting one. I always take such articles with at least three grains of salt, as reports of the novel’s death have been greatly exaggerated, but this one has some merit. It’s intellectually in the vein of postmodernism (the medium is more important than the message, and the medium sculpts the message), but it has the good observation that the internet reifies neoliberal values in the disparity between bestsellers and the pullulation (a word I learned from this article) of nearly free texts.
I’m torn on his lionizing of the novel as the central cultural feature of his extended “modernism,” because on one hand it is really true (for the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries for sure) but I have a knee jerk reaction when someone declares their art form as the bees’ knees. I don’t really the think the novel has been so important as technological changes accelerates—a point I think he totally missed when he inaugurated this idea of an extended modernism. If the medium alters the content and the way that content is expressed (shoutout to Deleuze), then rapidly altering media will create rapidly altering artistic/aesthetic/cultural movements. Look at visual art in the 20th century and you’ll definitely see that.
I think unless as a culture we become somewhat more conservative towards our liberal arts, including literary novel readership and appreciation, (as in wanting to preserve the liberal arts), his prediction for novel readership becoming niche like classical music will probably be true. There is a thriving readership for novels I think right now, but I think it’s mostly because of liberal arts education—which is becoming phased out of culture due to the changing media landscape, mass apathy, the economic barriers to liberal arts education at universities, and an anti-intellectual populism which is creating the same barriers to science literacy. It’s ironic that things associated with liberalism (as conceived in the US)—that is, education—now have to be acted upon in a conservative manner—that is, we have to save them. I think useful (i.e. justifiable) conservatism is not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater and wanting to retain cultural continuity, useful cultural institutions, and to in general not fix things that aren’t broken (or at least not throw them out when they are in fact repairable).
Technology is a harbinger of neoliberalism within a capitalist context, where human beings lose value: workers replaced by machines, the outbreak of low cost temp workers with little purchasing power, the availability of anyone to provide a service (thus flooding the market and making that labor cheaper, unless you have viral success), and whatnot. To a degree, I think these things are part of the landscape of the future and trying to turn back the clock with classical liberal solutions is just tilting at windmills. Economic forces tend to be like the weather: unchangeable, just get an umbrella. Conversely, I do think we have a say in what cultural values we advocate and tend to. I don’t think universities will survive in a meaningful way unless reform that accommodates their values can be accomplished. (Universities as vessels of certification I would argue is not line with such liberal arts values.) However, we can try to create new material expressions of those values, and I think it’s necessary.
Blue Sky Dark Apartment Blues
The clouds are darker than the skylight twilit backdrop behind them,
I see the moisture wander and roil, kick wind currents like ladybugs and roly polies,
I keep shuffling soil back and forth from my left hand to my right,
while a chorus of holderless lanterns align on the hill across from me,
streets are illuminated by unseen sources and it makes me hope summer might come sooner,
like photographs of family who tug unthinkingly on the sums of inches leashed between us,
I’m a tailored suit without scissors, rorschach interference patterns play indifferently
from the passing cars on the street,
it’s so seamless the way that one car’s bleating turns into another’s
and when I close my eyes and let the acoustic sadness wrap a capo around my throat,
I can imagine it’s the ocean I hear as I lose consciousness.
I like the way the weight of beaches makes us feel heavier than we are,
I like watching your legs struggle like a drunk elephant,
I try to ignore the smell of the food worry left out for rot in my apartment,
try to placate the part of me that makes dishes knowing there’s no company.
Just because a house is lit doesn’t guarantee occupancy.
There will be people who reach for you through the internet, though you have no idea why they do it. They reach slowly, in the way aspen roots sing to each other, the way the seasons rouse each other day by day. You will tell yourself there is no way they know you from the slow coffee drip accretion of reposts and articles and thinly veiled plaintive pleadings to the universe in those moments when you simply want to give up but instead find yourself in the amniotic light of a macbook monitor trying to be heard.
You are certain you must sound like a coyote with mangled limbs flailing on a keyboard. Certain no portion of your personality leaks through keystroke after keystroke, that there is no way the same names listed again and again in likes or retweets actually belong to real humans in some small way recognizing you. You are certain you are intelligent life mistaken for a distant pulsar, bird droppings mistaken for the universe’s post-coital hum.
But on a certain night, at around 11pm, you will be thankful for some kind of connection without words, weary from speaking and being misheard again and again. You won’t care if they understand the nuances of your views on gun control or precisely why you posted a long string of poems in a status in a (what you assume is pathetic) attempt at emotional semaphore. You’ll appreciate immensely those silhouettes at their monitors nodding to themselves as they click a button; you’ll wish you knew them better.
An acquaintance posts a question on facebook you have practical input on. This isn’t you posting your reasoning why abortions will reduce gun deaths; they’re looking to buy a product and you’ve been there.
Enter the acquaintance gap. The acquaintance gap is explained by a formula: Quality of previous interactions x (Level of (former) intimacy / Time elapsed since last interaction).
Like Einstein’s lambda, you attempt to introduce an extra variable to make the numbers more attractive; you think to yourself, “Surely I can multiply this by the usefulness of my information! I’m the master of shopping for apartments!”
No. You cannot. Einstein might have gotten the last laugh when the lambda value actually turned out to be a non-zero value, but you’re not Einstein. There is no social dark energy. Your expertise is wasted.
He’s all jack,
twerking reciting a poem about twerking. I hope you enjoy it. It’s called “Twerk-Place Discrimination.”
I’m honored to have two pieces of mine (“Interference Patterns” and “The Plague”) published in POPLORISH, a lit magazine produced by Old Growth Northwest. The magazine is free to download, though if you have the means, I highly encourage you to donate.
You can also find other badass writers there, such as Lauren Wheir and Ian Greenfield! Treat yourself to some exquisite writing!
I found this while digging around for something else.
"I’ve learned that loss is the most painful and most reliable metric by which we can determine the worth of the things around us. As I sit typing this, the watch on my desk continues to tick away towards the inexorable collapse of the reality I’ve come to know over the last four years. The friends I have known and grown to love will scatter. The people who have been the cornerstones of my life and my love will part ways. Not forever, not permanently, and not completely. But we’ll continue to grow in different ways, apart from each other. And that’s what’s so beautiful and tragic to me.
If have any religion left in my soul, it’s a religion of beauty. Not superficial, but not profound either. I don’t believe in such a distinction. A beautiful pair of eyes can move me just as much as Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind can. My sense of what’s beautiful has been the one thing in my life which has never been questioned, never been scrutinized, which is amazing, considering my incredible capacity for doubt (my friends and loved ones will attest). What’s beautiful is simply beautiful, and to me, that’s all there is. It doesn’t matter why it’s beautiful, it just matters that I feel it to be.
And that’s why I can’t hate that this reality that I’ve built, that I’ve pulled together, is but days from being irretrievable. I’ve loved this. I’ve hated it, I’ve cried, I’ve detested it, but that’s because at the heart of this all, I’ve loved it. I’ve loved every experience, every person I’ve spoken to, every word I’ve heard that’s become a part of me. And because I’ve loved it, that’s why this will hurt the most. Because I’ll never be able to bring myself to wish this away, to yearn to change it. It’s made me what I am, whatever the fuck that is.
That’s not to say I don’t have regrets. I do. Recently, I had to go through my phone, contact by contact, and transcribe their names and numbers to piece of a paper. (I was switching phones and having technical difficulties.) I got to reread the name of every person who gave me their number, who I didn’t call. Every girl I awkwardly flirted with to be shot down by. A few people I’ve dated, with mixed results. Friends who were close for a while, who drifted. My phone was surfeit with people I didn’t take the opportunity to speak to nearly enough. Filled with so many things that could have been possible— not necessarily good or desirable, but possible. Every choice we make kills an infinity of possible selves we could be, possible conversations we could have had. It was a parade of the results of every petty fear, every useless inhibition. This is not say it was all bad. There were the numbers of friends, of loved ones, of people who I did take the opportunity to speak with, to grow close to. But it made me aware of how much life I’ve failed to live, to grasp, let alone to suck the marrow from.
Loss is the most reliable metric. I tend to be longsighted, to keep my eye towards the distance. Which, I’ll say, isn’t a flaw. The flaw is that my gaze doesn’t travel. Right now, I’m doomed to suck the marrow out of what bones are left. To try to cram into two weeks what could have been spread over years. Two weeks of foolishness, with all its virtues and vices, to repent for a drought of exuberance.”