As two scholars committed to Poetic Inquiry, we find ourselves positioned between diametrical impulses guiding our creative practices: between an organic poetics of speaking truthfully from the heart and living poetically on the one hand, and a digital poetics of crafting utterance from logical constraints and living probabilistically on the other. These two approaches seem to draw inspiration from different environments, responding to the place-based physical environment versus responding to the space-based virtual environment. We argue that poetry is an ideal vehicle of inquiry into both real and artificial worlds, and although the methods of inquiry may be distinct, the outcomes, as poetry, could lead toward a more unified understanding and awareness of points of intersection between worlds. The hybridisation of compositional strategies reflects our relationship to language more broadly during a time of increasing dis/placement and automation of all literacy practices, including the writing of poetry.

 

Keywords: Eco-poetics – digital poetics – poetry – networks – time and creativity – academic life – pedagogy – writing

 

Kedrick

Information overload was first identified as a medical and pathological concept. The Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan in the late 1950s developed the cleverly named IOTA (information overload testing apparatus) to understand human cognitive processing power under various psychopharmacological states. These human abilities were gauged in a manner that assessed the participants ability to process ‘bits’ of information, much like a computer. They observed that ‘living systems may employ the following processes of adjustment to the stress of information overload: omission, error, queuing, filtering approximation, multiple channels, escape, and “chunking” of symbols into larger units such as words’ (Mental Health Research Institute 1960: 54). In the intervening 70 years, information overload has become a deleterious, nearly ubiquitous condition (Bawden & Robinson 2008) in the media torrent (Gitlin 2002) that pervades a life inundated with digital technologies.

On the surface of it, screen, screen, everywhere a screen, messages popping up from all over the signifying network, constant calls for attention and for quick revealing responses, surfeit of communication, a temporal information glut recalibrating clock time and shrinking headspace, caught up in the operant conditioning of my transmitting psyche, I detach abruptly. The computer will remind me that I’ve been sitting too long, but I jump the gun. I’m like a stall-crazy horse: forget waiting for a device to inspire me to move. 

The corridors I escape through are glass, steel, and concrete, and the only living creatures are bipeds, some of whom I was just messaging, bouncing my words off a satellite floating invisibly beyond the atmosphere, beyond the survivable ecosystem. Even though we are physically as little as a few feet apart, we’ll send our messages for miles at the speed of light to say ‘wanna do lunch?’. Outside is at first disorienting, having to adjust to a world of sensations, light, temperature, air pressure, sounds of bird song, motors, voices drifting among the breezes. Outside I have no control over the environment. The seventh crown chakra opens and shines, radiant as dawn’s rays. A weight has been lifted off, even when the weather is inclement, which it isn’t.

The break’s not enough, though, usually building to building, building to car or bus to yet another, domestic building, mobile screen time in between. Thoreau in my head yelling ‘Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?’ (Thoreau 1864, para. 1) Sometimes I follow the same impulse when I’m teaching pre-service teachers, in the middle of a lecture, herd the class out the door, walk around, ask those same pedagogical questions, now more prescient than ever, Who are we? Where are we? … What are we becoming?

I make plans to visit my ranch in the Boundary Country of British Columbia. There I can run free. A sense of as-far-as-the-eye-can-see, not just two feet in front of me, eyesight improving rapidly, I sit awestruck under the milky way at night, turn into the golden eagle’s reflection by day. In the middle of the grasslands, a pond, a portal to timeless, spaceless dimensions. The material world interpolated by metaphysical contact. Past Hope, somewhere over the rainbow, deep in snow, in grass, trees, stones, weathered and off grid, my sanctuary returns to me ancient secrets. Sleep on the land for a few days until the animals start to greet me with their clairvoyant eyes and psychic skins shimmering.

In the thick of it, I push through branches and deadfalls. On a quartz promontory, overlooking an expanse of forest and familiar mountains, I finally kick back. I am a time traveller. I transcend the causal limitations by merely existing fully in the moment. This is neither science fiction nor fantasy. Each moment subsumes me with immediacy, and extends through deep layers of infinite complexity and interdependency. All priorities and values change. I am conversant with a curious squirrel. There are no opinions here. Lacking cellphone reception, I have come into Contact.

Here my reality is so seamless that I lose track of days, go to town shopping on a closed-shop-Sunday, hike and get lost with no GPS yet suddenly arrive where I want to be. I spend my days communicating yet I have not spoken or written a word. My tracks through the grasses are signed in animal scripts, my scent tells a story to the nostrils at my steps, my sweat beads and drops to the root’s discursive scroll. The ‘seven tongues of god’ reply always slowly and silently (Leary 1990: 13-58). I am exposed without vulnerability, hiding among the trees, whispering with leaves, chatting with a chipmunk who chides me, abides me, lingers beside me. Surviving here is hard work, but hard work seeded with ecstasy. I am no longer a teacher: the earth teaches me.

 

Golden 7 Ranch

On kilometer 7

of McCarren Creek
seven golden eagles
cycle overhead
high as the abandoned
No. 7 Gold Mine
forgotten eyrie
slowly collapsing
across the valley
halfway up
to the Lost City of Paris
hiding in huckleberries,
hemlock, and humus
seven dimensions
beyond me.

 

Live-trapped 7
pack rats summer last
trucked them over
one by one to the shaft
released them beneath
the barbed wire & danger:
keep out signs
 ’til the miners’ ghosts
got fed up
toppled logs across
the eroded track
sent me back
with my trap shut
and mind full.

I wonder
how they are fairing.
I did not come here
to make my mark
but lying in tall grass
my presence is known

On this jay-crazy day
the eagle wonders
with satellite surveillance
the mountain lion wonders
with sleek leaps of faith
the salamander wonders
merging with mud
the badger wonders
digging the roots
the bear wonders
honey nosed in thickets
the flies wonder
buzzing exuberantly
and waxwings wonder
flying too close to the sun.

 

Carl

While driving my nine-year-old granddaughter Madeleine to school, she asked, Papa, why do you teach poetry? I responded, I teach poetry as a way to attend to the world. I don’t think Madeleine found my response either sufficient or satisfying. One of my favourite poets is Mary Oliver. In A poetry handbook, Oliver (1994) writes about ‘the real, unimaginably difficult goal of writing memorably. That work is done slowly and in solitude, and it is as improbable as carrying water in a sieve’ (9). For a long time I wrote poetry by seeking to live slowly and attentively, often during solitary walks or long hours alone in my study. My poetry emerged from lingering. At least that is how I remember my writing.

When I began my academic career in 1990, I did not have an e-mail account. I wasn’t accessing the Internet. Of course, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter had not been invented. I had no cellphone. I recently moved out of the University of British Columbia office that I occupied for more than twenty-five years in order to move into a new space. Because the new office was much smaller, I had to discard thousands of books. For several decades I have signed and dated books when I finished reading them. As I said good-bye to many books that I had collected during decades of reading, I noted how many books I had read in the early 1990s. I remembered how I sometimes sat in my office with my feet propped on the desk, reading a book of theory or poetry or fiction. I am not nostalgic about those early days, but I am struck by the contrast with my current daily experience in the academy. Now I am always checking e-mail, messages, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the stories of celebrities on the Internet. I am always connected by an iPhone I carry constantly in my pocket. I am always receiving e-mail, messages, and calls. I am always checking my iPhone. Ironically, I and my iPhone now seem both symbolically and symbiotically one. I am no longer a scholar who meets the etymological understanding of ‘learning in leisure’. I don’t actually know much leisure any more. I have become frenetic, frazzled, and frantic. And much of my poetry shares these new energies. Unlike Oliver, who thinks that ‘the poem requires of the writer not society or instruction, but a patch of profound and unbroken solitude’ (1994: 117), I seldom know solitude.

So, I am now seeking ways of writing that respond to and even honour the new rhythms of my daily lived experience. Regarding a chapter I submitted to a book about teaching, a peer reviewer complained recently that my writing was ‘disconnected sound bites’. The reviewer is probably correct. I am enamoured with fragments. Isabel Huggan (2003) promotes ‘the random mode of composition’ (223) which does not ‘impose pattern on experience’ (224). Instead, ‘the work of making patterns is left to the open-minded reader—allowing an infinite number of variations to occur’ (224). In a related way, Jean Baudrillard (1997) claims that ‘fragmentary writing is, ultimately, democratic writing. Each fragment enjoys an equal distinction. The most banal one finds its exceptional reader. Each, in its turn, has its hour of glory’ (8). According to Baudrillard, ‘the final state of thought is disorder, rambling, the fragment and extravagance’ (118).

And so I offer a long poem that is generated out of the contemporary, urban, wired world I now dwell in—a world with different rhythms from the world I grew up in. I am still learning how to respond poetically to this new world that presses on me with an urgent sense of immediacy. Oliver (1994) understands that ‘the truly contemporary creative force is something that is built out of the past, but with a difference’ (11). I want to address that difference in the kind of poetry I write, especially poetry composed out of fragments, sound bites even.

 

Paradox: 4 Poetic Speculations
(while reading Nietzsche)

1

sit as little as possible

the sedentary life … is the real sin

     sitting is sinning

what am I doing

     sitting with Nietzsche

sitting and sinning

2

give no credence
to any thought
not born outdoors
while one moved
about freely

since these thoughts
aren’t born outdoors
(indeed I haven’t been
outdoors for a while)
I will give them no
credence, and I hope
you won’t either

Mr. Burns, the family basset,
would love to go for a walk
but I must write, entangled
with Nietzsche’s words,
no time for walking,
for going outdoors
(the scholar’s paradox
of lingering on wild words
in domestic tranquility)

if I were braver
I would stop writing
and walk long on
the dike beside the Fraser River
where I could admire
the tangles of blackberry bushes
always ready to slice your flesh
like a precise vicious scalpel

give no credence
to any thought
not born outdoors
while one moved
about freely

3

          now

fundamental conception

     eternal recurrence

formula of affirmation

     at all attainable

notation underneath

     powerful pyramidal rock

this idea came to me

          then

4

eternal recurrence:

tomorrow is today
yesterday is today
today is today

all is
all that is is
all that has been is
all that will be is

who invented

                                                                 chronology

                              linear narrative structure

               history

                                             past and present and future

new and old

                                        birth and death

                                                                                                    seasons

                                                            night and day

          the earth’s rotation

                                             loss and regret

                                                                                joy and hope

     dreams

                                                            right and wrong

                         tomorrow is today

                                                                           yesterday is today

                                   today is today

all is
all that is is
all that has been is
all that will be is

eternal recurrence

or eternal present

 

Kedrick

On the road back to the city, a job, reality?, anxiety courses under my sternum as if it were being clawed by phantom electric abstractions, the roots torn from my heart’s cavity, replaced with artificial pumps that serve up distraction to the networked world, a public I cannot see but who are nonetheless in my head and omnipresent around me. We all now work for technology, as much, if not more so, than technology works for us… duty calls and I have ducked responsibility, vanished in the silence of the real. I sink into what Baudrillard (2006) memorably describes as ‘the marvellously affectless succession of signs, images, faces, and ritual acts’ (5) on the roads of the American West (continentally speaking), aware that a key part of my brain is going into sleep mode. I am being reinserted into the matrix, the hive mind of the networking masses. Spawn of rote communicative gestures automated with ease: response-ability, land of the Users. A sluggishness seeps in, symptomatic of a remote-control mind.

Once back in the city under the microwave reflective sky, consciousness shifts, succumbs to the eros of self-representation, an artificial I, the me in media making sense to the disembodied we in interwebs. My actions are routine, automated according to the engineering of my communicative environment. My meaning, as such, is how I go about, transmediated, transmitted, enthralled, a backup band (width) playing the greatest giga-giga-Intergig of all time, the network of networks (Parente 2007)[i], spectacle of the hive mind...

To reduce oneself to an abstract line, a trait, in order to find one’s zone of indiscernibility with other traits, and in this way enter the haecceity and impersonality of the creator. One is then like grass: one has made the world, everybody/everything, into a becoming, because one has made a necessarily communicating world, because one has suppressed in oneself everything that prevents us from slipping between things and growing in the midst of things. (Deuleuze and Guattari 1987: 280)

I watch animals on screens, speaking like humans but always with an understanding, a persevering of sacrifice, a commercial for their braised flesh follows like findings after a theoretical framework.

I exist in a schizoid semiosis, in hierarchy with myself, a boss of super-egoist proportions cautions me when signing up, urges me when logging in, controls output so that I might manage my content-worker self more efficiently, and become virtually paradigmatic, a post-person, a post-poet, a sampler of language, a generative algorithm, a semblance of the sincerity of intention. My poetry is also dislodged, tumbled to a polish in search engines and rolled back as a remix in the form of ads for products we think I need. I look for words that sparkle like phosphor, give off my reflection, words that I might dive into, feel the surface of my cybernetic flesh; words that have meaning, surprise, the nectar of inspiration, governed by an overriding interest and curiosity the same way that one line of verse oversees the next, seeking fulfilment–or boosting clickthrough rates.

There is a necessary gap in comprehension as I move between the lines/things, which is to say I am conscious of my need to pack meaning in tightly, to smooth the transition in the way an ant, with saliva to encrust the dirt, will make a perfectly round tunnel without the need of middle management. Behind the effort is an instinct, a Freudian drive, an ideal. As Armand Mattelart in Networking the World, 1794-2000 (2000) states:

Networks, a leading symbol of progress, have also made their way into utopian thinking. The communication network is an eternal promise symbolizing a better world because it is united. From road to rail to information highways, this belief has been revived with each technological generation. Yet networks have never ceased to be at the centre of struggles for control of the world. (viii)

I take delight in the seeming endlessness, how I am cast upon that vast network as a body without organs (Delueze and Guattari 1987), a hollow-gram of my futurity coalescing from scraps, fragments of momentary sagaciousness, under the ever-watchful automated eye of Big Data.

It is in this manner that I become a collector, a preserver, symbiotic with the network, like a detritivore I assist in the breakdown of psychic wastes that can be recycled, formulated as news, mobilised, floated to the surface aerated by attention. Although microscopic, I am not irrelevant to this process. I am and always have been a set within the available selection of values, a proclivity or tendency, a probabilistic assimilation of odds and ends that nevertheless sustain my post-personal aesthetic.

Post-personal dilemmas of coherence wax as the engineered information flows swell, flood the banks of concentration across vast swathes of the networked public’s attention span. Time dishonours all texts tasked to be memorable. From memory palace to disheveled laptop hovel to hive of distributed detritus, from the place-based schizoid eminent disappearance into visual phantasmagoria, to the iClouds of a clear blue sky. Memory deficits in a world going vir(tu)al, buying into the proxy stocks and futures ad hock shock by digital click rates, tumult of capital exhaling the mysterium of the biological machine—Humanity, a self-encoding, cascading consciousness-engine, revs and tears up the information highway. Ordered to evacuate the real. Sandbagged sovereignties (right to privacy Vs. freedom of information) and a rising tide. ‘Whhhheeeezzzounnnn’, the post-personal poet hears as stereo-technoscopic society whips by, leaving us in its silicon dust.

The post poet is still standing on leaves of grass.
The post-post poet is located at an outlet,
fumbling around with curious hands.
The post-post-post poet holds a mobile sketch pad,
uses a molecular waste-vase, flips a switch.
The post-post-post-post poet is a robot
who has no legs
vocalizes in AM radio dialect,
& runs much faster
from one line to the
nexus, bests us
texts us
for optimization
of the pay per user
e-loser, paying attention.
The post post post poet’s personal poetic is second hand news,
old attic insulation, mashed up captions of a National Geographic Magazine
stockpiling Africa, America naked from the waste up
the coldness of calculation pouncing on every pleasure:

The first-past-the-post poet’s poetic is an arrangement of objects, castaways
from the internet of things, handy banners hamming Big Data.
The last-past-the-post-personal post-poet’s poetic is a shade of quantum lightning
OCR recalls while running a strip treatise on data
playing a video of nature watching you
A modern primitivism, the post post post post post post poetic
is seeing things blink
is a glitch becoming mesmerized by the anti-sign
is all cross tabulation from here on, profiles
nesting in sector trees
rocked Plato’s tag line to know thyself better than you
could use poetry to hide like a bird or a spy or a virus.

 

Carl

Colum McCann (2015) claims that ‘we are living in the mobile now. Never before has time been so agile. The past crashes into the present with ease. The future doesn’t seem to surprise us at all. Anything can happen—and probably will’ (25). McCann refers to our contemporary experience as the ‘era of smash time—all the particles of yesterday, today, and tomorrow slammed together and carried around, bizarrely, in our hip pocket’ (25). He notes that his children regard the havoc as natural: ‘They have been born in an age of collision’ (28) when ‘smash time … creates a sense of immediate uncertainty’ (28). McCann then asks the critical question: ‘Where do you find focus when there are a billion waves of information slamming your skin from all angles, all times, all machines?’ (28).

As I was reading McCann, and preparing to focus on writing this paper, I experienced a crazy day. In the course of my writing about the influence of technology in my academic and personal life, I encountered a difficulty with e-mail. I could see that messages were arriving in my mailbox, but I couldn’t see the actual messages. Since I live each day significantly immersed in e-mail, this was disconcerting. It looked as if messages were not being downloaded from the UBC server to my computers. Messages were being sent, but I didn’t know where they were going or where they arrived (if they arrived). I was struck by the immense and irritating irony of my predicament. E-mail messages were apparently swirling about in cyberspace, but they were not in my control. I might never see them. I contacted IT services at UBC, and they sent me a ticket number by e-mail. On my phone I saw quick traces that IT had sent me a ticket number, but before I could record the ticket number, the message disappeared. As usual in the midst of this kind of disruptive technological disrepair, I felt anxiety. I was not in control. Of course, I am seldom, if ever, in control. As a poet I understand my lack of control. As a busy person trying to make sense of too many issues, experiences, ideas, and emotions, I am simply ill-equipped to live with the lack of control. Therefore, I turn to a kind of poetry that acknowledges fragmentariness, inconclusion, and interconnections.

 

Twenty-six Poems in Search of a Theme

nothing but a further text,
the last of the series,
not the ultimate in meaning:
text upon text
                    Roland Barthes

a

Three Things I Hate
(found on public washroom wall)

  1. lists
  2. vandalism
  3. irony

b

The Limits of Texting
(erasure poem, Jim Nelson, GQ, November 2013)

a few years ago
   I stopped talking
      to my family

my mother led the charge
   to a new mobile era
      of family chat

my mother happens to be
   a supremely gifted
      and emphatic texter

UNCLE PHIL DIED. HRT ATK :(  

I was knocked on my ass

the end of a life reduced
   to nineteen letters
      and an emoticon

texting shards
   of life-and-death
      data

even the cause of RIP
   wuz abrv’d
I got hit
   by a wave
      of mad texting

a riot of virtual mourning

strangely close, enveloping

like all human mourning
   frantic desperate, imperfect

I texted everyone I knew

c

If Only
(The Vancouver Sun)

Mediums & Psychics

     MR. HASHIM,
Renowned African Medium
& Clairvoyant—Love Special-
ist, resolves all problems,
business success, release
from spells, court cases, ex-
ams, protection, family
problems, bad luck, impot-
ency, reunite lovers forever,
even hopeless cases. 20
years experience—quick res-
ults. 6 mins from Patterson
Skytrain. By appointment
     only 604-423-7361

d

Sign on Wall
(mostly found poem)

See Something Broken
                 or

Not Working Properly?

Take Action
Contact FMD
Call 911
24 hours/day

I’ve just been reading
The Vancouver Sun

everywhere I look
I see something broken

I need to take action
             Help!

e

Faith

she held the placard
high above her head

THANK YOU JESUS
FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP

if I thought for a second
Jesus had anything to do
with Trump’s election

I would declare myself
an agnostic faster
than a Trump tweet

f

Riddle

after he visited Scotland
a friend once told me
with a derisive swish
how the Scots use
Glenfiddich to brush
     their teeth

he eventually left
his family for a woman
who liked to sanitize
and cuddle in a spoon
position like love
could be ridden

even if the riddle was
seen through dark glasses
sung with parched lips
secured in a seashell
stamped with caffeine
     served with roses

g

Notes to Self

who am I?
what is I?
where is I?
when is I?
how is I?
why am I?

always more
to the story

h

Earth’s Rhythms

the earth turns 
with patience,
waits still
with hope
poets will
learn too
earth’s rhythms

i

Crow

the soft sun suffuses
early evening dusk

a crow signs the sky
with indecipherable text

j

Linger

may you linger
in the art and heart
of poetry like
light & night
diastole & systole 
presence & absence

k

March

the Newfoundland winter
marks the world
in black and white

hard to imagine flowers
will remember how
to bloom again

l

In the Richmond Auto Mall

at Fender’s Jayme serves me
the Grand Slam breakfast

eggs, toast, home fries
bacon, sausages, ham

and calls me and everyone
honey like we are cherished

the question coffee sung
with a smoky blues tease

m

Crescent Moon

on my patio
in late April
the sliver of moon
in my neighbour’s
bedroom window
reminds me how
the unfamiliar calls
out to the familiar
with hopeful alchemy

n

Thought

am I an afterthought?

if so, what came before thought?

o

Bouquet

the sky might be falling or
it might be reaching low
to hold hands with the earth
perhaps eager to pluck a gladiola
from the bouquet on my father’s coffin

p

Vacation Message

I will be away in Mexico
from April 3 to 17

I will be reading books
lying in the sun

writing poetry
and pretending

I do not know
what email is!!

q

Connection

the peer reviewer called
my writing about living

disconnected sound bites and clichés

at 63 years old I confess
I am a sound bite and cliché

r

Spell

spellbound with winter light
whirlwind of shadows
scribbled in the limits

of storied imagination

s

Ready

met a friend today
I haven’t seen for a decade

like poems some relations
are always in process

ready for revisiting and
reading in new ways

t

Hooked

I am transfixed.
     I cannot move.
I can only remember.
     I cannot forget.

u

Hope

because fear infuses
every cell of my spirit
my hope is ancient
not connected to
the moment just passed
but connected to melodies
without beginning or end

v

Rhythm

breathe     in     out
hear the whole world
the heart’s steadfast rhythm

w

Poet’s Liability

I have written many poems
I no longer like

I don’t even like
the poet who wrote them

x

Pogo

I write my poems
like jumping on a pogo stick
in the spring backyard

y

Where?

I shake my words
like dust or soot

off my hands
out of my hair

not sure who
wants   needs

words, my words
(as if I own words)

sure only
I must

send the words
away, some ways

z

Still Questioning

are my poems

ample absences
bowls with holes
brittle bricks
constant clichés
cups with cracks
dangling duds
mean murmurs
?

 

Kedrick

With permission from creators Andrew Klobucar and David Ayre, I have been using the GTR Language Workbench (n.d.), a software for the dis/reassembling of text: it is ecological, something akin to composting and compositing, for only poetry can adequately care for the media landfill, can return the waste, toxic as it might be, to something rich, organic, sensuous, vital, magical, and sustaining. The following poem was made this way, using all the text I don’t have space to include in this chapter. Like in the physical environment, I dwell in the excesses of output, struggling with what must be saved, and what not. As always I take liberties as a poet: I select, interject, rearrange, so that the words both are and are not mine. They are a collaboration between the human and the computer and the digital world we create together.

But Is It A Poem?

It is a CARTOON in the FORM of the GODS of ODDS.
The INSTRUCTIONS for this run steeply down
into an indeterminate LITERACY.
In one HAND, we see the LIVING heads-up
in the other a devastating REFLECTION
and it, too, is filled with COHERENCE and ROMANCE.

To meet the PSYCHE with a recycled DESIRE,
the TECHNO EARTH renders every POEM
into a BOSON of BIOSPHERE TERROR.
This will establish our ROOT CIRCUMSTANCE
and our sociable GUITAR will project this to the duplicate AIR.

We want no POETRY at all, never MIND.
We will put away our FOOT, resist the SUCCESS,
resist synchronized thermonuclear SCREEN ECOLOGIES
resist PERDITION and the injurious GUTTERS of PAPER.
We will talk quietly with a RANGE of NEEDS.

What does the BREATH, otherwise irradiated by DAWN,
LOVE, and PLANTS, care about FRAGMENTATION?
The TREE of METAPHOR is a GLOBE-wielding TV,
or a backpacking LIZARD sighing through its sides
or a hot old HAND PRESS holding an empty RIFLE
and everyone wishing to be shot.

The MEDIA got out the mesomorphic BROWSER.
We squealed with inoculated DELIGHT.
‘READER’, we said with hot RADICALIZATION
of a wizened POETRY, ‘do you want some’?
‘Please, we must insist, it’s warm from the GENRE’.

What is the DANGER of this ubiquitous MEDIA?
They are admitting to an EFFICACY that they are nude
in their ANONYMITY.
What of the HOLOGRAM?
Replaceable, exposed to the BILLIONS of HOTSPOTS
in our towering, evanescent DREAMS.

 

Carl

I was recently in Montreal. I stepped out of the hotel on my way to McGill University. I had looked at a map, and I understood that I needed to turn left. I walked and walked, but I didn’t find McGill. I walked and walked. I wanted to ask somebody for directions, but everybody I passed was wearing earphones, and I didn’t want to interrupt their privacy, their desire to be invisible, their spiritual meditations. I finally saw a person with no earphones, and asked for directions. She told me I needed to go back. When I left the hotel, I should have turned right. I am grateful she could direct me.

Almost every day I walk on the dike near the Fraser River in Steveston where I live. I see many people on the walk, and I smile, nod, and say hello to many of them, at least if I can make eye contact. It is a small gesture, but it feels like an important gesture to acknowledge the other, to recognize we are human beings in a community that also includes many other creatures, and many histories, and many connections. My walking beside the Fraser River is a kind of contemplative, ruminative poem, and I am glad for the opportunity to linger outdoors with my thoughts. But a different energy is emerging in my writing.

For example, I am constantly opening the Internet to search for a definition or etymology or biographical fact, and finding myself lost in hypertextual scurrying down paths to check on the Kardashians or Ariel Winter or Donald Trump. All these paths are entertaining, and I am always keenly interested in both popular and political culture, especially when they are both cut from the same bolt of brightly coloured cloth. I am seeking ways to enjoy both the energetic walks on the dike when I watch the herons, eagles, hawks, sea lions, and other walkers, as well as the frenetic pace of checking e-mail (responding, filing, and deleting with deft fingers and imagination) and gorging on Internet news and gossip. I am seeking ways to embrace all the experiences of each lived day, and poetry is the genre of writing that invites me to experiment and explore because the conventions and possibilities of poetry are capacious and open to new possibilities. Poetry invites engagement with language and discourse, with words and the world. Jane Hirshfield (1997) claims that the ‘central energies through which poetry moves forward into the world it creates’ are ‘the concentrations of music, rhetoric, image, emotion, story, and voice’ (7). Poetry is made (from the Greek poiein, to make). Poetry is composed or constructed, but poetry seldom has a prescribed pattern leading to a predictable product.

I feel like I cannot write poetry about attention and lingering and rhythm when I am technologically in turmoil, but I need to write the poetry that reverberates with the unsettled rhythms of my fearful imagination. My interface with mother earth on my walks on the dike is a different experience from my interface with the motherboard. I can surrender myself on walks on the dike. I know I am a small part of the world, and I am flowing with the world. My interface with the motherboard is broken, tenuous, fearful. I don’t want to be addicted to e-mail. I don’t want to feel that my lines of communication are dependent on technology I do not understand. I think the technology has outpaced the human ability to sustain and repair the technology. The technology has no spirit or heart. It does not think or feel like a human being. Nevertheless, my encounter with technology is entirely human. I have no chance but to surrender to the exigencies and emergencies of technology. I will learn to breathe. Perhaps my interface with the motherboard, with technology, with e-mail is really no different from my interface with nature. I am a part of ecology, of the earth, of the creation. So, I must learn to let my words find their way(s). I am not in control of my words. I am not seeking to tame or domesticate or colonize my words. I am hoping to let my words go into the world efficaciously, to encounter other words, and to be encountered by other words. My commitment to the efficacy of words for creative transformation of intellects, hearts, bodies, and spirits is the main reason why I write, and why I write in diverse discourses and modes.

For many years I have signed off e-mail messages with words and phrases such as ‘Poetically’, ‘Gratefully’, ‘On a poetic Monday’, ‘Lightly’, ‘Leaning into spring’. I write a lot of e-mail messages, so I have written a lot of closings. Kedrick designed a way to generate poems from random combinations of the closings. He called the device ‘The Leggoizer’. I was delighted with the opportunity to linger with my words, composed during several years of e-mail correspondence. As I revisited the closings, I engaged first with random combinations, but soon decided that I wanted to challenge myself with seeking a pattern, even in the randomness. As a result of writing the following poem, I arrived at a place where I recognised how I am slowly changing, adapting to new kinds of literate engagement in the world.

Leggo Leggoizes with Leggoizer

Heartily
            In supreme enthusiasm
                        Leaning into humour
                                    On an innocent Monday
                                                With accidental delight
                                                            Wishing you an ornery Monday

Emphatically
            In sparkling infancy
                        Leaning into (tremendous) thrill
                                    On a dramatic Tuesday
                                                With foggy delight
                                                            Wishing you a wooly Tuesday

Radically

            In sublime light
                        Leaning into (concise) determination
                                    On a complicated Wednesday
                                                With tantalizing delight
                                                            Wishing you a thoughtful Wednesday

Horizontally
            In ghostly fascination
                        Leaning into optimism
                                    On a flamboyant Thursday
                                                With the memory of the moon’s full night
                                                            Wishing you a visionary Thursday

Vigilantly
            In unpredictable concentration
                        Leaning into fascination
                                    On a tantalizing Friday
                                                With gratitude for the poetic ways you live each day
                                                            Wishing you a poetic Friday

Majestically
            In enchanting light
                        Leaning into concentration
                                    On a mystical Saturday
                                                With spell-binding delight
                                                            Wishing you a pensive Saturday

Zippingly
            In the spirit of poetry
                        Leaning into love
                                    On a tremendous Sunday
                                                With a poet’s hope
                                                            Wishing you a blithe Sunday

 

 

 

[i] Parente (2007) reviews the notion of rhizomatic networks becoming autopoetic networks, saying ‘These characteristics of networks can be applied to organisms, to technologies, to devices, but also to subjectivity. We are a network of networks (multiplicity) and each network refers to other diverse networks (heterogenesis) in a self-referent process (autopoiesis)’ (102).

 

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