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[Reading: Oct 22]

Humanities programs aren’t being attacked because the voters are cretinous philistines (though we poets & writers prefer to stroke our own egos in thinking so). The humanities are suffering an identity crisis and are being picked off as the weakest competitors for state funding.

Just a few things to notice about the site redesign.

I don't believe in "blessings" in disguise. I don't believe that all that doesn't kill me, strengthens me. I believe I was murdered emotionally. I believed that an already severe sadness was aggravated by being taunted relentlessly. This kid who was outed without his permission, who was exposed for the "entertainment" value of the reality TV culture is not merely an instance of gay bashing. He is a test of our failure not to torture. He is a victim of our pro-exposure, lack of empathy, sociopathic contempt for privacy or kindness. I keep his picture on my desk. I look at him every day.

At its heart, surrealism wages a political and ideological battle through language. By creating impossible images through placing disparate objects side-by-side, poetry dismantles and re-formulates our perceptions and conceptions of reality.

Whitman wanted the sign and the signified to be the same thing, to come together and, at the moment of poet’s invocation, be one. He wanted to cross the gap between sign and signified by poetic force .... He wanted the sign to be more than a sign, more than arbitrary, to really be alive, to be the thing, be filled with the spirit of the thing signified and the spirit of the people using the sign, but he consistently found that he was trapped in the realm of the sign, unable to bridge over to the reality of things, and that poems are made out of words – the vibrant life he wants to yawp is, on the page, only arbitrary symbols.

When the young woman of twenty-five notices faint lines around the mouth or tiny crowsfeet at the corner of her eyes, something even more intimate than vanity makes her stop to reflect. The script for her very own mortality play, written on the finest parchment, has begun to develop, nor does she need any special clairvoyance to divine the final act from the first.

The church doesn't look like much from outside, but when you enter it, Oh my God! And not one, but two grand pianos in perfect tune! The one I played was a 150 year old Steinway—with an amazingly delicate upper range, perfect bel canto bass, and not much volume. It was an intimate Steinway, made specifically for just such a classy church.

Episodes 13 and 14 of Poetry Fix. Mary Karr and Christopher Robinson briefly discuss John Keats' poem "This Living Hand" and Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese."

I followed Strunk religiously until I read Geoffrey Pullum’s extensive bitchfest in the Chronicle of Higher Education about Strunk & White, and in recent years I have reconsidered my devotion.

There is an inwardness so vast, so total, that it has a true integrity—not the pretentiousness of artistic temper, not the vanity of professional mysticism, not the neurosis of social anxiety disorder, but a forthrightness, an honorable, hourly withdrawal from the world that seems, for lack of a better word—ecstatic.

Mary Karr and Christopher Robinson briefly discuss baseball haiku.

Part of the 20th century revolution in poetry was an interest in parody, pastiche, send ups, cut ups, a constant recapitulation of tired tropes in such a way as to reinvigorate them. If we look at poetry aesthetics as tools rather than as truths, then everything becomes available to us—all the thousands of years of utterance.

I tend to believe that we don’t realize that technology is (always already?) an assumption about the world (as one philosopher called it “an account of the good”), not only a tool. Ironically, this writer is lamenting the disappearance of languages via the internet, which has become battering ram of English domination. The more I read and learn, the more I think that questions of technology and how man relates to nature are primary questions (not economics, race, sexuality, etc.—in many ways, the controversies over these can be directly traced to questions of technology).

Now for a spin on the story of English from the internet age...LOLcats. In particular, the LOLcat Bible Translation Project. Many linguists depend upon the work of Bible translators deployed around the world in remote (to us, at least) regions of the world. I happen to know a man who worked as a Bible translator and created the only existing dictionary in the world for his regional dialect. Concerns about dictionaries (and their purpose) aside, the LOLcats Translation begs a question: is LOLcats a true pidgin English? It has a history, it has its own grammar and rules, and now it has its own Bible.

Mary Karr and Christopher Robinson briefly discuss Terrence Hayes's poem "Talk."