Chris Piuma, word garbler
April is International Pwoermd Writing Month,
and I spent the month writing
pwoermds over on Twitter—in Latin.
What’s a pwoermd? It’s a one-
word poem, a poem aggressively edited,
language torqued and tickled: diced, spliced,
& awfully nice. As Geof Huth,
who coined the word, has noted,
pwoermds seem more native to English
or French, languages with unintuitive orthographies
that encourage unlikely spellings. Even Chaucer
got in on the hacktion. So
my Latin pwoermds, which I’m calling
Carmnomina, may come off as blatantly
English—especially with their love of
consonant clusters and unlikely compounds—or
maybe German? I’m thinking of working
them over awhile, into something worthy
of a chapbook. Or translating them,
or asking others to translate them?
We’ll see. Meanwhile, some of my
InterNaPwoWriMo pwoermds from 2013 were published
just released by Xexoxial. It includes
lots of great pwoermdists: Grab it!
05 May 2015
Academia attracts interesting people. Not everyone
in academia is interesting, but most,
and the people who are interesting
are very interesting indeed. Here in
academia I have met many interesting
people. We should support academia because
it allows interesting people to interact
and make the world more interesting.
They add interest to the world.
Like a savings account, or better,
like a diversified portfolio, an investment
in academia offers high interest rates.
But (and I’m currently on strike
from teaching an introduction to poetry
class, where students were learning that
this is called the poem’s “turn”
until my employer decided they were
obliged to offer us starvation wages,
far below the cost of living)
academia wants you to forget that
other scenes attract interesting people too:
the arts, the bars, the church,
the living rooms, the spare rooms,
the picket lines, the message boards…
As academia starves you, remember and
revisit these other points of interest.
13 March 2015
The title, M×T, is one side of a formula for grief: Feeling = Memory × Time. That formula is marked, as the cover is marked, by a multiplication sign. Emily Dickinson: “After great pain, a formal feeling comes.” Here, great pains multiply, and formal feelings multiply—but feeling’s forms multiply as well. From sonnets to erasure poems, from anagrams to postcards: feeling uses familiar forms, but also nurtures new and not-yet-articulated forms. Such forms emerge from ordered materiality (letters, words, lines): Is feeling also material, countable and transformable? It must be material, if it is a product of multiplication. The sections of the books are divided by electrical diagrams for circuitry which might harness and control this emotional materiality, such as an “emotional overload sensor circuit”. And yet even after emotions are made material: “The dead are not firewood. They cannot be collected, ordered or made useful to the living.” Grief can be ordered, words of grief can be ordered, but you cannot order the dead. They will somehow manage to multiply beyond your taxonomies: they will somehow manage to order us to grief, which multiplies our words and forms.
If M×T is a copious anthology of forms of grief, sorrow is to row is a small and solitary form: a single poem, tucked inside a little sleeve pasted inside its cover. The book—a simple, handmade object, made in an edition of 26—requires you to find its small poem with a few protective layers; not an impossible task, but an intimate and familiar one. The emotions of the poem are here again made material in the book object, in the physical act of accessing the poem. Grief takes on another form, a single form that is still based on multiplying: The poem consists of a single phrase (“sorrow is to row your boat nowhere”, from bpNichol’s Martyrology) typed out several times. The lines are all the width of the title (in a monospaced typeface), but the repeated phrase is one letter longer than the width of the line. And so the poem begins “sorrow is to row / your boat nowher / e sorrow is to r / ow…” — and the phrase breaks differently each time. Enjambments multiply, the meanings hidden within words (the ‘ow’ in ‘row’) are revealed by the breaking. The repetition may seem to be heading nowhere, but at the point where the phrase’s phase would repeat the opening line, the poem ends—not nowhere, but at a point: the sudden mark of an ending, the period, the full stop.
Sina Queyras, M×T (Toronto: Coach House, 2014).
Michael e. Casteels, sorrow is to row (Kingston, Ont.: Puddles of Sky, 2014).
26 November 2014
Every now and then I’ve dipped
my toe into the ocean of poetry
reviewing. But I feel ill at
ease there, queasy, tempest-tost by
what reviewing does and doesn’t do. [Read more…]
24 November 2014
I’ve been trying to write up my thoughts about last month’s BABEL Working Group meeting in Santa Barbara (yclept “On the Beach: Precariousness, Risk, Forms of Life, Affinity, and Play at the Edge of the World”), and it has been difficult.
I enjoyed the conference a lot. I heard a lot of great papers, had a lot of great moments, met some great people, drank some great cocktails, and spent time with some great friends. I got to organize a punchy poetry reading during a clamorous party on a rooftop bar on a beautiful Santa Barbara night. I co-organized my first session, and it was a delight and a success. And I say all this to contextualize and counteract the melancholy tone in the following—because I’ve been dilating on the melancholy this time, and I’m using this space to explore that. This melancholy isn’t entirely representative of my feelings about the conference.
My experiences at the 2012 meeting—in Boston, in a compact yet confusing-to-navigate city—were intense and frenetic, and involved wandering around the city in the wee hours of the morning and getting pleasurably lost among so many curving streets, so many swerving papers, so many intersecting moments. But Santa Barbara is quite different from Boston. We met along the ocean, at a university that is steps from the beach, there at the edge of the continent; we looked at the surfers, the oil platforms, the crashing waves, the distance. I keep referring to the conference as pummelling, as waves pummelling the shore. Of course, some of us were not on the shore, some of us did more than look at the surfers, some of us joined them, some of us learned with them—but not the part of us that included me. I am no surfer, heading into the ocean’s surge to catch a moment of flow. The ocean is a swallower, and I do not care to play with it. So I kept back, and kept observing. [Read more…]
05 November 2014
[I’m reposting this from elsewhere, before posting about BABEL 2014, but I am still having this time now then.]
What follows is a notedump, perhaps designed more to overwhelm than to summarize, or to reflect the density of ideas, enthusiasms, and connections that the BABEL meeting tried to drown us all in. Despite the entire time feeling out of time, an Edenic mirage that we were both well within and yet was always just out of reach, I’ve tried to reconstruct a chronological account of what I did and what I heard people say (and my apologies if I’m misrepresented what anyone said).
If my notes are to be believed, I am not a jetsetter, and I do not normally dash from bed to the plane to the event, but after a night of modest sleep there I was, Toronto Island airport, and a prop plane ride and there I was, Logan airport, where a free subway ride took me to Northeastern University, to a student center, to a table with registration forms and trick dice, whenupon I started a day that I had already started five hours ago in order to go to the airport and which would not end for three days. Or, I would have started it, but there was some confusion about when the first panel was supposed to start, which was a confusion symbolic of our shambolic temporality, because really almost everything else went off without a temporal hitch. [Read more…]
04 November 2014
Dear word, I love seeing you and saying you and marking you and playing with you and twisting you and garbling you. But I do not like marshalling you, I do not like putting you to service. I like pressing you, pressing against you, but not press ganging you.
Dear word, I am terrible at writing, by which I must mean: press ganging you into organized meaning. But I dislike meaning (the verb, not the noun). I like becoming-meaning, I like opening-for-meaning, I like meaning as something received, rather than something given. I trust planning-to-write more than having-written; the former feels like engagement, the latter, oblivion.
Dear word, I am in a bind, for there are things I want to do that require doing things to you that neither of us will enjoy. I seem to need to bind the word in order to get the word out.
Dear word, I am bound to move from word play to word work. Dear word, I am setting up this space—this space which I have tried and failed to set up before, which I have always halted or haltered—as a space to practice compromise between word work and word play. As a space to explore and fail, to write wrong. As a space between word worlds. As an overly public, overly worlded space for wordsmithing for worldsmithing. As a practice imperfect.
Dear word, I am sorry for all this. Dear word, do not run away from me, not too much, deer word.
Let us play.
04 November 2014