i’m not struggling; i’m juggling (or multitasking like a mofo)

The Pixies asked the question ‘Where is my mind?’ and I’d answer all over the place, not in a scatter brain kind of way but more in the lots of things are demanding my attention all at once. I’m juggling a number of projects – consulting for WH, the podcast, injecting new life into radio warwickshire, getting the new book ready for publication, trying to build momentum in the world of self-promotion (can’t rely on other people alone to do it – Walt Whitman was a tireless self-promoter and look where I got him in relation to his contemporaries) oh and I’ve gone and started a companion site to this blog on Facebook I can’t fight Zuck and win, like morpheus, I gotta get inside The Matrix and do damage from within – so yeah that is where my mind is. I’m going to have to go back to time blocking so my mind can take solid shape on one thing at a time.

For some reason I just had a flash back to the game A Barrel of Monkeys – remember that one?

In fact as I’m watching the scene unfolds in my mind, I’m back at my grandmother’s house on the floor in her room play this barrel of Monkeys game by myself. The adults have gone in another room and closed the door. I can hear them arguing, but I’m not sure about what. I think has something to about something my cousin did. And that’s it. The scene ends there.

I finished reading the Matthew Zapruder book, Why Poetry. I like that he is trying to win back poetry for the common people and encouraging folks to let go of how they may have been taught poetry in school. In a nutshell, he argues that a poem should be read in and of itself versus how many folks were taught in school that poetry is coded language for something other than what’s on the page and that you have knowledge of obscure references in order to get the “true” meaning of the poem. He wants us to forgo thinking of a poem as a puzzle to be solved and instead to experience a poem as a gateway drug to the associative power of our imagination. In other words, the poem will reveal you to yourself through the connections it fires off in you’re own consciousness. It’s a good book and worth a read if you’re into such things.

I also finished the selected poems of Charles Olson.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I might. I couldn’t connect with Olson’s choice of subjects which are grounded in New England. Plus his poems drip with intellectualism, which isn’t a bad thing, just doesn’t stir my insides.

Something I didn’t know, Olson coined the term postmodern.

And so I found myself at the Cats Protection re-homing event today.  We cat fosterers.  This event is held every couple of weeks and from time to time I go to help with the social media coverage:

Oh yeah, and here are some shots from my street photography outing last Saturday in Oxford:

You can find the rest on my Flickr account.

Alright, my eyeballs hurt, time for me to get off of this thing!



And that’s the trouble with poetry

I awoke this morning to the hammering sound of rain. Just what you want out of your Monday morning – dark, wet, gloom. I made a batch of strong, dark coffee to match the mood. I turned to my one true source of motivation – books.

I cracked open Matthew Zapruder’s new book, Why Poetry. He’s on a mission to bring poetry back to the people. He argues that the way poetry is being taught in schools puts most people off of it for life.

“So many of us have been taught to read poetry as if words mean something other than what they actually say.  In this version of poetry, poems are designed to communicate a message, albeit in a confusing way. Everything that is in the poem – metaphors, similes, imagery, sounds, line breaks, and so on – is decorative, that is, place on top of the message or meaning of the poem.  The student’s job is to discover that meaning, and to repeat the central (often banal) message or theme back to the teacher, or in the exam.”

Liz Lochhead, former makar (poet laureate) of Glasgow, had this to say:

“The way poetry is taught at the moment is absolutely appalling…they teach poetry as a problem, rather than a joy, and that’s disgraceful…It’s clear that even teachers think poetry is code. I have been asked by a boy, who emailed me once: ‘when you wrote that poem about a bull, what did you really want to say?’ His education had allowed him to get the misapprehension that a poem is a code trying to get a message across.”

And that’s the trouble with poetry, it gets a bad wrap in school and few people, except sad sacks like me, ever recover.  It’s funny for as much as I read poetry is dead and that I should be a writer of a different sort, I can’t shake the poetry bug.  I love it and it’e my favourite form of self-expression with words. I love the wild ride poetry allows you take with language.

My favourite poems are those that are self-contained, that is, you can use your literal imagination to enjoy the poem as it is on the page without having to have an extensive knowledge of obscure literature or need a guidebook to help your navigate the many allusions and references (which is ironic, seeing how the poet that got me fired up about poetry when I was 16 was T.S. Eliot, but to be fair, I didn’t understand what the heck he was on about in the Waste Land, I just loved the pure language. And Prufrock and Hollow Men easily stand alone).

Zapruder nailed it for me though when he said, “poetry can only fully be pursued when the writer is not ultimately preoccupied with any other task, like storytelling or explaining or convincing or describing or anything else.” The poet must “be ready to reject all other purposes, in favour of the possibilities of language freed from utility, is when the writer becomes a poet.”