Monday, November 14, 2011

Hello all!

This is just a quick announcement to say that I finally became fed up with separating my blogs four different ways. I've consolidated to one, and the link is here.

New Site!

It's not much better that this one, but the content is (slightly) more frequent.

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Poem of the day #29

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room
William Wordsworth

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Poem of the Day #28

Elegy for Jane
Theodore Roethke

My Student, Thrown by a Horse

I remember the neck curls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidling pickerel smile;
And how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,
A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing;
And the hold sand in the bleached valleys under the rose.

Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure
Eve a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw;
Stirring the clearest water.

My sparrow, you are not there,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiny shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in their matter,
Neither father nor lover.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Poem of the day #27

Adrienne Rich

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
astronemer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them

a woman    'in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments
or measuring the ground with poles'

in her 98 years to discover
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled
like us
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
ribs chilled
in those spaces      of the mind

An eye,

          'virile, precise and absolutely certain'
   from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                     encountering the NOVA

every impulse of light exploding
from the core
as life flies out of us

          Tycho whispering at last
          'Let me not seem to have lived in vain'

What we see, we see
and seeing is chaining

the light that shrivels a mountain
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse
pouring in from Taurus

          I am bombarded yet      I stand

I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep     so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me     And has
taken     I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images     for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.

from The Facts Of A Doorframe

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Poem of the day #26

A Kite is a Victim
Leonard Cohen

A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.

A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won't give up,
or the wind die down.

A kite is the last poem you've written
so you give it to the wind,
but you don't let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.

A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
so you make friends with the field
the river and the wind,
then you pray the whole cold night before,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.

Language never gets easy.

I just survived a Philosophy Intensive, which means that in the last 30 hours, 12 of them were spent in a class covering Analytic Philosophy.

Huh, and when you put it like that it doesn't look too bad. Suddenly I feel less hardcore than I did before I started this post.

Anyhow, one of the things were were covering in class was the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, specifically his work on language. (I wrote my paper on his Mysticism. And that's the last you're ever going to to hear of that paper, because for complete lack of excellence it ranks right up there with the stories where I mistook architecture for plot and finished conversations by people jumping down holes in the ground.) In addition to really kicking off Ordinary Language Philosophy, one of the things Wittgenstein worked on was the theory of private language vs. public language.

This is where it gets interesting, I promise.

Okay, so one of the things that has been thought about extensively over the last couple millennia has been how we acquire language. The general consensus was that language was something that arose internally. When we were children someone pointed to a cookie and said "cookie," and so when we wanted that thing we went to the pictures in our minds, found that it was called "cookie," and asked for it. Language is primarily internal, arising from private experiences and sensations we learn to put names to.

And then Wittgenstein came along with a bag full of wrenches and threw them at everything. He said that language arrises from shared experiences, experiences that we've decided on a name for. It is essentially public, and essentially experiential. Even in the example of the child pointing at the cookie, the important part is not that the child wanted to name the thing a cookie. The child wanted a cookie. (Speaking of shared experiences, pretty sure that one's common…) We don't walk around with a catalogue of names of things in our head, we walk around with a collection of actions in our heads.

From this it follows that language is essentially culturally constructed. (And if you add the fact that experience is filtered through "language," experience is culturally constructed, and so is reality, but that's a head trip I've barely even started synthesizing yet, much less decided if I agree.)

Speaking of experiences that make sense within culture...
So that's interesting.

I had never gone into the issue as deeply as we did this weekend before, but I had thought of language as a cultural construction before. It's one of the things that comes up if you move a lot. (Just trying referring to the boot of a car in California and see how far that gets you.) And it's also something that comes up if you're writing or studying writing. It's why you often need to know where or when someone comes from before you interpret their work, or you're left thinking as all those poets talking about courtly love as creepers who can't even talk to women. Where if you know that the genders were entirely segregated at the time of the writing, you know that the poet isn't a creeper for not talking to his lady love. (He's a creeper for other reasons. :D)

One of the things I was wondering this summer was whether a common language is actually an impediment to communication in our world. We have so many people who speak English, and because of our shared media and art we all talk fairly similarly. There are, or course, exceptions-- Singlish being one which comes to mind-- but generally most people who talk English are fairly comprehensible to each other. However, we don't all come from the same culture. Yes, we come from similar cultures, but our experiences range from subtly to very different. And yet, we all have the same words for things. So we assume we're talking about the same things, when sometimes we really aren't.

I beg your pardon?
I thought of this again when #Occupy protests started spreading around the globe. Because yes, in the USA when you say "Bank," you're talking about an institution which has some serious institutional flaws. More Regulation Needed, Please. However, that isn't necessarily the same everywhere. In Canada while the USA financial system ours was the most stable in the world. So when people hear on the news that "the financial system is corrupt and flawed and needs to be changed," and then they go out and protest it, they're protesting an issue that might not even exist in their country. If it does exist, it's certainly not going to be fixed with the same solutions here! But because the words are the same, we assume the experiences and references are the same.

tl;dr version: Define your terms.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Poem of the day #25

The secretary chant
Marge Piercy

My hips are a desk
From my ears hang
chains of paper clips.
Rubber bands form my hair
My breasts are wells of mimeograph ink.
My feet bear casters.
Buzz. Click.
My head is a badly organized file.
My head is a switchboard
where crossed lines crackle.
Press my fingers
and in my eyes appear credit and debit.
Zing. Tinkle.
My navel is a reject button.
From my mouth issue canceled reams.
Swollen, heavy, rectangular
I am about to be delivered
of a baby
Zerox machine.
File me under W
because I wonce
a woman.

From Circles On The Water.
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