Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Freaky Magic Latin Square

SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS. Forget that "Arepo" is a made-up word, and marvel at this sentence that goes into a grid and reads the same from four directions. The guy who came up with this would have loved sudoku. I had never seen it before today, when I discovered that Geoffrey Chaucer had put it on a t-shirt. Wikipedia seems to know all about it, as usual. You can also rearrange the letters to form "PATERNOSTER" twice, with a double alpha and omega left over. This all goes nicely into a sort of crusader cross. All very interesting, but reciting it to guard your cattle from witchcraft is a bit much!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Terror vs. Embarrassment

An interesting (and cathartic) review in Poetry which takes Christian poets to task for being too diffident and reader-friendly.
Terror’s potential as a creative source is all but unrecognizable in today’s religious poetry. Many critics would even contend that the genre as such no longer exists (witness Harold Bloom’s fascinating but labored attempt to articulate “the American religion” in his recent anthology). Labels aside, however, it seems clear that past pursuits of “a Discontent / Too exquisite—to tell” (Dickinson) have been replaced by slacker, more self-deprecating pieties. Instead of confronting you with a soul drowning in God, the contemporary religious poem is much more likely to invite you in for a dip.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Yes! Exactly! Hooray!

Of the eight manifestos that Poetry printed this month, I found two that actually had me longing to declaim them through a megaphone (and one satirical specimen that made me laugh--just imagine Ezra Pound howling it!). I've cut out my favorite thoughts and pasted them below.

Presto Manifesto!
AE Stallings

The freedom to not-rhyme must include the freedom to rhyme. Then verse will be “free.”

All rhymed poetry must be rhyme-driven. This is no longer to be considered pejorative.

English is not rhyme poor. It is only uninflected. On the contrary, English has a richness in rhymes across different parts of speech; whereas in many other languages, rhyme is often merely a coincident jingle of accidence.

There are no tired rhymes. There are no forbidden rhymes. Rhymes are not predictable unless lines are. Death and breath, womb and tomb, love and of, moon, June, spoon, all still have great poems ahead of them.

Rhymes may be so far apart, you cannot hear them, but they can hear each other, as if whispering on a toy telephone made of two paper cups and a length of string. [The great exemplar of this is Dylan Thomas's "Author's Prologue" See "farms-arms" Or see my "Roman April."]

Off rhymes founded on consonants are more literary than off rhymes founded on vowels (assonance). Vowels are shifty. Assonance is in the mouth, not the ear. It is performative. [Listen to your average rock song: assonance, not rhyme. Vowels are harder to hide when you're singing.]

Translators who translate poems that rhyme into poems that don’t rhyme solely because they claim keeping the rhyme is impossible without doing violence to the poem have done violence to the poem. They are also lazy.

Rhyme is an irrational, sensual link between two words. It is chemical. It is alchemical.

April, silver, orange, month. [I actually have a rhyme for "orange." I am willing to sell it.]

Rhyme frees the poet from what he wants to say.

Rhyme schemes.

Rhyme annoys people, but only people who write poetry that doesn’t rhyme, and critics.

Perform-A-Form: A Page Vs. Stage Alliance
Thomas Sayers Ellis

The performance body, via breathing and gesture, dramatizes form. It makes it theater. It makes it action....The idea body, via text and thought, flattens form. It makes it fixed. It makes it language. It makes it literature....The work of the performance body is not without craft, control, or form. It is not lowly. The work of the idea body is not without attitude, improvisation, or flow. It is not closed.

Perform–a–formers seek a path around both academic and slam poetry....The utterance, paged or memorized, is only a schema in need of diverse modes of respiration.