Archive for October, 2008

The World as Meditation

October 25, 2008

The Sun, on the Horizon…

Wallace Stevens was fond of writing and speculating—and (if I may) poetizing and philosophizing—about ‘the poem’. Inscribing a copy of his Collected Poems to one of Holly Stevens’ English professors, he wrote:

When I speak of the poem, in this book, I mean not merely a literary form, but the brightest and most harmonious concept, or order, of life; and the references should be read with that in mind.

Stevens also wrote about ‘the poem’ in Reply to Papini, that it was:

 The growth of the mind .

Of the world, the heroic effort to live expressed

As victory.


And from Notes towards a Supreme Fiction, a statement of origins:

From this the poem springs: that we live in a place

That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves

And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.


The brightest concept of life, the most harmonious concept of life. The growth of the mind of the world…

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Poetry about poetry and poetry about hunger

October 19, 2008

I too, dislike it, Marianne Moore writes in a poem she simply called Poetry: as if sensing the ensuing fate of poetry is to be genuinely ignored—but offers a quick apologia: poetry is a place for the genuine, she insists. It is useful.

One must make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not pretty,
nor till the poets among us can be
“literalists of
the imagination”–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have


 One is tempted to discount such things despite the good writing. Yes, an imaginary garden with real toads is one of the better characterizations of a poem, but we have real problems in this world, why spend a single iota of time worrying about, you know, meta-poetry? Like, if you can’t find something serious to write about…

Listen however to what William Carlos Williams is telling his wife:

My heart rouses

          thinking to bring you news

                    of something

that concerns you

          and concerns many men.  Look at

                    what passes for the new.

You will not find it there but in

          despised poems.

                    It is difficult

to get the news from poems

          yet men die miserably every day

                    for lack

of what is found there.


Landing fresh on the planet from Mars, one would want to know more about this thing called a ‘poem’—despised or not. Let’s try another one:

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Expanding the Classroom

October 7, 2008

Fast Eyes

Talk about amazing. The other day I turned on my computer. I got on the Internet, went to a webpage, sat there, put on my glasses…there was a lot of text swimming before my eyes…but I sat there and I read the whole thing! I read it slowly; I read it carefully; I highlighted portions of the text using Diigo; I made some notes (Diigo again). I read it through a second time: an article that was first published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and now is in residence on the Web.

Of course, I was also IMing, and twittering, and blogging and wikiing, and I had some music in the background—Moby—and I was playing solitaire, and answering questions on Yahoo, and working on a vocabulary game called Free Rice—but my primary focus was on this article by Mark Bauerlein, a professor at Emory University, called Online literacy is a Lesser Kind. Might be interesting, I thought.  Oh, and I had Photoshop going, just to fool around with when I was bored. I’m thinking of creating an avatar.

The article did not start off auspiciously. Referencing Jacob Nielsen, the guru of web usability, usually puts me off. He can be a little pompous. And as I glanced down the page his name jumped up at me. I was tempted just to scan and move on, but I am interested in literacy and Professor Bauerlein should have some interesting points to make.  

So, Jacob Nielsen. I read on.  It seems he’s done this study on the way people ‘read’ material on the Internet, testing some 200 plus people, and it turns out the vast majority of them don’t read at all. Not line by line, word for word anyway. Rather, they scan the page looking at the text in an F pattern: read across the top, move your eyes halfway down the page, go across again, and then zip to the bottom.

‘F’ Mr. Nielsen opines, ‘for fast.’

One is tempted to use another ‘f’ word here, but this is a family oriented blog.

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