Wednesday May 22, 2013
Is the line-break the defining element in a poem? Can poems be poured onto electronic screens without violating the sanctity of the line? How can we be sure the poet’s artistic choices are preserved when poems migrate from the printed page to digital media? These questions have been hovering in the world of online poetry since the beginning of the digital age (see our previous postings on these topics listed below)—and while they are certainly not settled issues, at least some of the major poetry publishers have begun to work towards practical answers, translating poetry books into electronic format.
from Associated Press:
“Poetry Finally Joining E-book Revolution,” by Hillel Italie
“The problem had been how to transfer a poem from paper to screen without either breaking a line up—a primal violation of the art form—or making the font size too small to read. It’s unlikely that publishers can design a perfect solution, but they have managed to find acceptable compromises. In part, they credit advances in technology that make it easier to keep the original look intact. They also cite a technique long used in print.... The hanging indent.” [Guide note: The funny thing is, news stories online don’t use the hanging indent, so the example that follows, showing its use in the iPad version of a Sharon Olds poem, is invisible.]
Past Postings on Poetry’s Migration to Electronic Screens:
“iPad Poetry: It’s the Real Deal” (2012)
“Poems Mangled in the Move from Page to Screen” (2010)
“Misprints—Are They Serendipity, Inspiration or Embarrassment?” (2008)
“Typos Are Like Viruses.... They Replicate on the Net” (2007)
Thursday May 16, 2013
When this Web site was new, back in 1997, we published an article on poem phone phenomena around the U.S., cataloguing the local phone lines devoted to putting poems in people’s ears. A few years later, most of those phone lines were dead. But there’s something special about the private experience of listening to a poem read to you on the telephone—and we wonder if that experience can be replicated on the Internet.
John Giorno originated the Dial-a-Poem concept in New York in 1969—his 10 phone lines offered recordings by people like Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders, Ted Berrigan, William Burroughs, Anne Waldman and Diane di Prima. Many of the Giorno Poetry Systems recordings now reside online at UbuWeb Sound.
In 2009, Kelly Writers House created a Dial-a-Poem phone line using recordings from its PennSound archives. Does anyone know if this phone number still works?
In 2012 the Museum of Modern Art revived Dial-a-Poem for its “Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language” exhibition. You could call 347-POET001 (a local New York City number) to hear poems the old-fashioned way, on the telephone, or visit MOMA’s Dial-a-Poem Web site to play a poem online.
What do you think, folks? Does filling your ears with a poem from an online audio archive recreate the intimate experience of hearing a poem read to you on a telephone receiver? Or are we just indulging in misplaced nostalgia? If you know about any currently working Dial-a-Poem numbers, please, please, come back and tell us about them by commenting below.
Thursday May 9, 2013
Here at About.com Poetry, we’re immersed in classic poems that compress history and link us to the experiences and understandings of the poets of many past times. Still, every so often lately I look up from my computer screen and find myself thinking, “We’ve lived into the future”—where speculation leaks into real life, and science fiction becomes everyday reality. And there are poems here, too, in the borderlands between science and science fiction.
Last week, NASA announced a campaign to gather haiku to go to Mars on the MAVEN (“Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission”) spacecraft, launching this November. MAVEN is intended to study the loss of Mars’ atmosphere and water, opening a scientific window into the red planet’s climate history and its ability to support life in the past. As it has with other recent missions, NASA is seeking to generate public interest by asking people to sign up and send their names into space—more than 1.2 million names already went to Mars on the Curiosity rover. But this time they are also collecting haiku poems, putting them up for a public vote, and sending the top three to Mars along with the names of everyone who submitted a poem. So, poets, get to it! Write a haiku for Mars, and send it in.
There are also poems that live in we might call “SciFi” land—deeper into the realm of speculation. Here’s a recent sampling:
- Les Murray’s New Yorker poem “Science Fiction,” perfectly capturing the timeslip sensation of having lived into the future
- The Science Fiction Poetry Association, founded in 1978 by Suzette Haden Elgin to bring together readers and writers of scifi poetry, and its quarterly Star*Line, where you can read editor’s choice poems from past issues online
- Suzette Haden Elgin’s essay, “About Science Fiction Poetry,” illustrated with two of her poems, “Brochure From the Intensive Care Ward: 2081” and “Psalm To a Higher Power”
- Isaac Asimov’s editorial on poetry, explaining why Asimov’s Science Fiction publishes mostly light, rhymed verse
- SciFaiku— scifi poems in haiku form
- Rebecca Ariel Porte’s io9 survey of contemporary poetry recommended for scifi readers who “want to get [their] feet wet in the world of poetry,” “The Best Books of Poetry For Every Kind of Science Fiction Fan,” as well as her list of “Ten Great Scifi Poems.”
Our question to you, dear Readers: What have you found at the intersection of poetry and science fiction? Comments, and haiku, welcome below.
Our past postings on poetry and science:
Scientific Poetry, Poetic Science
The Scientist in Emily Dickinson
Mind Expansion: Pairing Poets and Scientists
Friday May 3, 2013
Some of the shortest poetic forms are most difficult: the triolet, for instance. Like the pantoum, a triolet takes part of its structure from the repetition of entire lines—in fact, three of its lines are repeated, so that the poet only actually has to compose five lines to write a triolet. This extreme repetition, and the fact that only two rhymes can be used in the eight-line poem, restricts the language so tightly that both poet and reader must focus on the very subtle ways in which the sound and meaning of the same words evolves line by line during the progress of the poem.
Examples of triolets in our library:
“Triolet” by Robert Bridges (1876)
“How Great My Grief” by Thomas Hardy (1901)
“The Coquette, and After” (a pair of triolets) by Thomas Hardy (1901)
“Winter in Durnover Field” by Thomas Hardy
Four Triolets by Sara Teasdale (1911)