Monday, August 29, 2005

Rik's photo gallery

I've added a small photo gallery to my website. Just a few photos with a bit of commentary. Here's a sample:

Friday, August 26, 2005

Professor Ray's Amazingly Bad Poetry Journal

I think I've found a new purpose in life - to write a poem so crassly shite that Professor Ray will find it worth his while to review it on his Amazingly Bad Poetry Journal.

In fact I think I've got a few candidates already on my very own vanity website!

Monday, August 22, 2005

New Sincerity?

There's this New Sincerity thingy doing the rounds of poetry blogs at the moment - many links can be found from this blog.

I'm trying to understand what the purpose of all this activity is and, I think, failing miserably. I just don't get this idea that a poem can be "sincere". The person writing a poem can, I suppose, believe they're being extremely sincere when they're determining structures and choosing words for the poem. And the reader can, I suppose, approach a reading of (or listening to) a poem in a truly innocent and sincere way - if they really put their mind to it.

But I just don't see how this activity could make the poem itself sincere. Can a turbine engine be sincere? Is a dying leaf sincere? They're both true to their purpose (to work and to dry up and become mulch respectively), but there's no "sincerity" in their activities or cessations.

Poems are made up of words, and words are very slippery things - a word can start out meaning one thing and a dozen decades later find itself meaning the complete opposite of what it first purported to represent. A poem is a conduit, a pipe, an attempt to implant a writer's ideas into a reader's or listener's brain. It can't be sincere, because its very meaning will change over time.

And can a writer be sincere? Truly sincere? No. A writer's sole purpose in writing is to implant thoughts and ideas into someone else's head. A writer will use as many tools and mechanisms as it takes to get their point of view into those heads - they'll state the obvious and hide the obvious in parables, they'll conjour images and pull out stereotypes and archetypes to trigger the responses they need to make the reader better prepared for the central message. A writer must construct a series of lies so outrageous that the reader or listener will have no choice except to remember the essential truths encoded within the poem. A poem fails when the reader shrugs their shoulders and turns the page, and no poet is altruistic enough to admit that that's "fine by me" as long as the poem remains as "sincere" as possible.

Not even me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Intelligent Designer

God sits in a hole in a heap of stars,
His thoughts a device of repeating chains -
each molecule brought into time by chance
divine in its placement around His frame.

The multitudes flame in their chanting praise
and steep in his aether, their souls now saved:
He made them, accepts them inside his head
though sometimes their stories upset his thread

of plans and conceits that He weaves through space.
He knows about flames, He invented them:
or maybe He made the equations, braced
in sigils constraining numbers, stems

consumed in a flux of exhausts - but why
would someone accept the embrace of flames?
To glorify Him? Such accounts defy
intelligent thought. Put it out, reclaim

the pureness of plans. He exhales, and charms
pop in and then out of existence. Souls
arrive in their swarms: He radiates calm
and notes how their patterns depart from goals

He's set them. No time now to worry: plans
can change in His scheme. There's some quarks to spin
and matter needs herding. An eye expands,
intrudes on His thought - He remembers sin,

the guilt that can't hide in the eyes of those
who know they've done wrong. He invented eyes -
or maybe He set the design, exposed
those strands that became His desire for life

to sunlight, and set them to seek the warmth
that bleeds from His suns, let equations build
the chemical paths and let physics form
the shape of the lens so that eyes could fill

with tears and lament - such a strange result,
this gift to perceive His design! He scans
His schedules for flaws and corrects the fault:
"for all things must end, even me", He plans.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Micro-Mule

Inspired by a story on the BBC News website this afternoon. Enjoy!

"There must be laws against this sort
of thing! I mean - there's me, you know,
right there in the spot, the sugarmill
just ticking over nicely when
some bastard 'god' just pops along
and sticks a stack of beads across
my back, you know? Like I'm a giant
of multicellularity!
Yeah, right! And then the bastards steal
my heat and light, evict me like
some virus scum. And now they play
their games - a sweet light here, a smell
of toxins there and I'm away:
go up this channel, round that bend -
it's like a bloody maze in here!
My poor flagellae beat like strips
of, well, flagellae I suppose
and if I had a set of nerves
I bet they'd scream in pain by now!
I mean, I ask you, mate, for what?
Nirvana ain't supposed to be
like this!

Friday, August 12, 2005

The story of the two creations

Part of the joy of conlanging and conculturing is that you get to invent stories to bring these things to life. I've written and translated a couple of these stories on my website, and thought I'd share a new one here.

Storytelling is a great enjoyment for the Gevey speaking people, and good storytellers soon gather a loyal audience.


"They say the Universe was created in a great explosion, and one day the Universe will tidy itself up into a little ball no bigger than a grain of sand that lodges in your eye. But nobody can tell me why the Universe is as it is. Some say that maybe Jaakra(1) explained it to Giey(2), once, but neither Giey nor any of her daughters have gossiped the secret into the ears of the world. Maybe the secret is hidden in a woman's smile.

"Anyway, the universe became and Jaakra became with it. Perhaps Jaakra caused it in one of His(3) experiments, for He is always one for trying this and trying that. I've heard He made the sun by spinning in a dance, and gave it a skirt of planets and a veil of comets, simply because it pleased Him.

"But less of this speculation: who can know the purpose of Jaakra? Not even those folks who perch naked on the peaks of Illhush(4) can tell you the truth of the matter, however they may hint otherwise! Instead I shall tell you the tale of the two creations.

"After Jaakra created the stars and planets, the land and the seas, He sat on the highest peak within the circles of mountains that are Fuecuu Cohmpuun(5) and considered His great work. It was pleasing to Him, with great oceans and waves, hot volcanoes and smooth plains, cliffs and beaches and valleys with rivers and waterfalls. A good work indeed, but Jaakra was not yet satisfied.

"After long thought, Jaakra said: 'While the form and function is pleasing, and it is certainly my greatest work, I know I can do better! This place needs more colour!' And with the decision made, He set about casting together the rules of life - weaving together ash and water, air and fire until a heap of seeds lay at His feet. Then He took each seed in His hand and whispered a stosha(6) into its core, and threw the seed across the curve of the world to land and unfold in the form of its own true nature.

"Time grew fat, and the world became bronzed and coppered and black(7), thick and twisted with ever-growing life. A time came when even Fuecuu Cohmpuun was matted and clogged, life covering the twisting pillars of ice and fire with its fecundity. Indeed when Jaakra woke from one of His many long naps He found that life had woven His pelt to the mountain rocks!

"'This cannot do!' Roared Jaakra, and hacking His way free from His bindings He took a new thought. From the fires that roared from the depths of the world He grasped some dust, whispering to each mote a new stosha and releasing them all into the hurricanes of His anger. Disease came to the world, and death and unmaking. Soon the battle of life and death circled the globe, each side adapting new strategies and forms to defeat the other.

"But Jaakra found Himself saddened by His actions. This was not the world He desired!

"Once more He took thought, lasting for much time as mountains grew up and grew old. And then He created life anew. This time, Jaakra took two seeds and shared a stosha between them, before casting them around the curve of the world. And from this sowing grew a second, more perfect creation!

"From one pair of seeds arose Thoel-sastrhivde(8) and her companion Kaj-brhishne(9), who farms the winds beneath his great wings. From another pair of seeds - that fell at Jaakra's feet - came Tarhose and Harhose, Jaakra's great hounds. Pairs of seeds were scattered everywhere, and some grew while others - such as the Leaping Fish and the Whale Who Sang - died in their birthing, caught in the plagues of war.

"Finally Jaakra took the last pair of seeds, and to them He whispered His greatest stosha before flinging them into the fabled Valley of Home. And from the trees that sprouted and grew from these seeds stepped Sam-loivjarhe the first of men and Giey, mother of all, and the creation was complete!

"Believe the truth of my story, a story that has passed from the lips of only the greatest storytellers - some of whom were women with smiles that maybe hinted at the Why of the Universe ..."

(1) - the given name of the Supreme Being
(2) - Giey, mother of all and the archetypal woman
(3) - Jaakra is an asexual supreme deity - feel free to replace He/His/Him with She/Her/Her or even It/Its/It
(4) - a particularly religious Land high in the mountains
(5) - translates as The Roof of the World
(6) - the archetypal name, secret to every organism on the planet
(7) - indiginous life on the planet can make use of all parts of the visible spectrum for photosynthesis, hence the photosynthetic "organs" and leaves are dark coloured rather than green (though chromatophores and pigment molecules add a bit of colour)
(8) - the corn bird, an archetypal bird
(9) - Kac of the Winds, the other archetypal bird

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Silence: the forgotten tool

Well, it's been over a week and I'm proud to say that I haven't even attempted to write poetry during that time!

When most people think about language, they think about sounds and words and structures and intonations and all the noisy stuff that goes into communication. For people with a heavy muse infection the concern for the noises can assume obsessive proportions. But people forget that the silences are just as much a part of language as the noises.

Earlier this year I took part in an online NaPoWriMo exercise - where a group of us attempted to write a poem a day through April. I found the experience challenging, exhilarating and worthwhile - the routine of writing every day was a new one to me and I found myself enjoying the work after the worries of the first week had passed. I've heard the advice to "write every day" before, but had never taken it to heart before NaPoWriMo. It is without doubt a useful routine to cultivate. But after 30 days I was also very glad the exercise was over!

Why? Well, some of the stuff that I wrote during that time is usable (and now forms part of the first draft of my long poem Snowdrop). Other stuff is less useful to me but was still fun to write. On bad days I resorted to limericks. On the worst days I typed up crap. But in the end the exercise descended into a form of unceasing noise - a background hum of "what shall I write today". And when the month ended, the silence returned.

And like I said, the silences are just as important as the noise. I take the (controversial) view that a poem needs to be though about, considered, reasoned with, challenged and reviewed even before the first draft is written. I enjoy writing poems, but I enjoy doodling just as much (especially in meetings) so I don't really see the point of writing poems just for the sake of being seen to be writing poems. If a poem has nothing in particular to say, then maybe it shouldn't be written in the first place!

Hence my pleasure with my current silence. Finding quality silence time is difficult at the best of times. Maintaining this state of mind is an artform in it's own right!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Forward Poetry Prize shortlists

I posted last month about the wonders of usenet poetry. Now, most online and real-life poets who have met the newsgroups - and in particular the poetry newsgroups - seem to think that the people frequenting such venues are vermin, deserving nothing beyond contempt.

I can't understand how anyone could form such an opinion ...

Nevertheless: good news! a.a.p.c regular Jim Sheard recently had the pleasure of announcing that his first poetry collection - Scattering Eva - has been shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Foundation's Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.

Jim has been a longstanding loiterer around a.a.p.c. and is the current guardian of the sacred faq pages. I wish him all the best in his scramble to fame and fortune.