The sky remains forever dark

on March 21, 2017 with 0 comments » | ,

Stasis! We know - well, most scientists but not all believe - that the universe is not static and is continually expanding but yes, energy is conserved, there may be something called dark matter and evenmoreso dark energy that comprises much of the universe and holds it together, but yes... the sky does remain forever dark.

#Nihilism? No. Just some bunny-hole I went into after  I ran into this excerpt while reading about entropy and the end of the universe, something that came up while discussing a Wallace Stevens poem, of all things! ;-)

P.S. I didn't know they had released a stamp in honor of Gibbs. I need to get myself this stamp somehow!

Three poems today by William Carlos Williams, from Collected Poems, 1939-1962....

... of the cradled mind, the restless nights, and petty imageries. Oh - all a momentary clatter and a world that is not enough!

Design for Novemberby William Carlos Williams 
Let confusion be the design
and all my thoughts go,
swallowed by desire: recess
from promises in
the November of your arms.
Release from the rose: broken
reeds, strawpale,
through which, from easy
branches that mock the blood
a few leaves fall. There
the mind is cradled,
stripped also and returned
to the ground, a trivial
and momentary clatter. Sleep
and be brought down, and so
condone the world, eased of
the jagged sky and all
its petty imageries, flying
birds, its fogs and windy
phalanxes . . .

The Words Lying Idleby William Carlos Williams 
The fields parched, the leaves
drying on the maples, the birds' beaks
gaping! If it would rain,
if it would only rain! Clouds come up
move from the west and from the south
but they bring no rain. Heat and dry winds
- the grass is curled and brittle underfoot,
and foot leaves it broken. The roads are dust.
But the mind is dust also
and the eyes burn from it. They burn more
from restless nights, from the full moon shining
on a dry earth than from lack of rain.
The rain, if it fell, would ease the mind
more than the grass, the mind would
be somewhat, at least, appeased against
this dryness and the death implied.

The Mind's Gamesby William Carlos Williams  
If a man can say of his life or
any moment of his life, There is
nothing more to be desired! his state
becomes like that told in the famous
double sonnet--but without the
sonnet’s restrictions. Let him go look
at the river flowing or the bank
of late flowers, there will be one
small fly still among the petals
in whose gauzy wings raised above
its back a rainbow shines. The world
to him is radiant and even the fact
of poverty is wholly without despair.
So it seems until these rouse
to him pictures of the systematically
starved--for a purpose, at the mind’s
proposal. What good then the
light winged fly, the flower or
the river--too foul to drink of or
even to bathe in? The 90 story building
beyond the ocean that a rocket
will span for destruction in a matter
of minutes but will not
bring him, in a century, food or
relief of any sort from his suffering.
The world too much with us? Rot!
the world is not half enough with us--
the rot of a potato with
a healthy skin, a rot that is
never revealed till we are about to
eat--and it revolts us. Beauty?
Beauty should make us paupers,
should blind us, rob us--for it
does not feed the sufferer but makes
his suffering a fly-blown putrescence
and ourselves decay--unless
the ecstasy be general.  
I will leave you with this interview with William Carlos Williams from 1950; have not heard it yet but will do so soon.

The weight of words

on May 14, 2016 with 0 comments » | ,

I don't think I've ever read a novel by a Korean writer - but may have to fix that since this is the second time I am reading about The Vegetarian by Han Kang in the last month or two. (It was on the long-list for the Man Booker International Prize earlier this year but don't think I had noted it then but may have noticed it in some news article about the short-list in April because it has made it to the short list too!)

Anyways, I ran across an interview with her just now in World Literature Today (read the full interview here) and here's an interesting excerpt.

KL: A well-known critic, and your fan, once said that one has to prepare oneself and be in a different mind-set before reading your work. How do you interpret this?  HK: I believe it’s because my novels directly explore human suffering. Instead of shying away, I try to delve deeper. That’s my tendency, as I’m always trying to discover the truth behind a person. So when I wrote about the Gwangju massacre, a tragedy with so much suffering, I think he meant that such material in my hands meant that the readers would have to prepare themselves to experience—feel—this suffering.   
KL: I sense in your work a way of looking at words—regarding them as if they were visual images. In your book Huirapeo Shigan (Greek lessons, 2011) it is evident that there is a meticulous sensitivity to word choice throughout your novel. I’m curious about your precise relationship to language, in terms of your work.  
HK: I’ve written a book of poems that I wrote over a period of twenty years that scrutinize words—images—in this manner. Personally, I think of language as an extremely difficult tool to handle. Sometimes it seems impossible. Other times it succeeds in conveying what I’m trying to say, but to call it successful isn’t accurate; moreover, it’s as if I keep writing even though I know it’s going to fail, but it’s the only tool I have. It’s a relentless dilemma, and I think it’s something that a lot of poets experience. Especially in Greek Lessons, the protagonist cannot speak and writes poems instead. Each sentence in a language has beauty and baseness, purity and filth, truth and lies, and my novel explores that even more directly. When the weight of words takes over, it is challenging to even speak sometimes. Despite this, we have to continue to speak and write and read.  

In a lovely essay titled 'The Persistence of Books' in the lovely literary zine,World Literature TodayRebecca Walkowitz writes about Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes Junot Diaz's use of Spanish and English in his fiction, Paul Kingsnorth’s breakout novel, The Wake, and Ali Smith's book  How to Be Both (2014).
In Tree of Codes, Foer has cut out words from the pages of the book, so that we see both gaps (literal cutout spaces in the paper) and words from other pages, which lie beneath those gaps. Tree of Codes (the title itself involves paring away letters from The Street of Crocodiles) uses the codex—the structure of paper sheets lying one on top of the other—to engage readers in the turning of pages, encountering holes, and registering loss or absence. Moreover, as Hayles points out, the reader’s intensive experience of her own body is meant to evoke by contrast the unfelt loss of other bodies, especially the loss of the novel’s author, who was murdered by a Gestapo officer in 1942. Loss, gaps, and absence are a condition of the novel’s history, which Foer seeks to make palpable through his adaptation. 
Foer’s work registers the absence of English words but generally forgets—and allows readers to forget—the absence of Polish words. There is no direct reference in the text or in the afterword to the original language of the work. In this sense,
 Tree of Codes is interested in the history of the book but not especially interested in the history ofbooks: their movement through the world in multiple editions and languages, their debt to translators, and their reliance on English as a medium of translation. Like many other recent works of world literature, Tree of Codes animates the medium specificity and sensuous effects of the printed page
....Books are not simply containers for language. They also establish the location of language. They do this, for example, by reproducing the national lexicon (the words that count as US English) while marking out and distinguishing, through italics, words that are foreign or outside that lexicon. Typographically, literary fiction since the nineteenth century has served to affirm the borders between local and global diction. Junot Díaz makes this point—and upends it—in his 2012 collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her. Díaz’s fiction is concerned with the relationship between English and Spanish. When his works move into other languages, translators have had to figure out how to communicate the formal dimensions of that theme. In particular, they’ve had to grapple with his selective use of italics, in which many but not all Spanish words are presented, alongside English words, in roman font. How do you translate a work of US fiction in which some words are local and foreign at the same time?

Incorporating medieval and modern, Kingsnorth shows that the normative technologies of the novel—the standardization of typeface and format, orthography and font—are complicit in the invisibility of English. We have forgotten the history of English. We have forgotten that English has a history. The Wake hopes to awaken our memory. 
Kingsnorth suggests that the flourishing of the English-language novel, represented by the triumph of contemporary anglophone fiction, is rooted in the physical brutality of the conquest. The novel presents that history while also seeking to inaugurate an alternative, localist future.

Incorporating medieval and modern, Kingsnorth shows that the normative technologies of the novel—the standardization of typeface and format, orthography and font—are complicit in the invisibility of English. We have forgotten the history of English. We have forgotten that English has a history. 
The Wake hopes to awaken our memory.
Kingsnorth suggests that the flourishing of the English-language novel, represented by the triumph of contemporary anglophone fiction, is rooted in the physical brutality of the conquest. The novel presents that history while also seeking to inaugurate an alternative, localist future.

Like Kingsnorth, Ali Smith asks us to consider the words, voices, and agents that precede or lie beneath the book we hold in our hands. Smith’s How to Be Both (2014) evokes multiple languages by generating the impression of multiple narratives, books, historical periods, and media. The novel emphasizes not only the history of writing but also, like our other examples, the typographic representation of that writing. The characters make free use of smartphones and iPads and other digital technologies, but the work relies on the codex and on the reader’s visual experience of letters and shapes on the page. The work is thus “post-digital” or “bookish” in the sense used by Jessica Pressman. It reaffirms the technologies of the book while benefitting—through composition, format, design, and circulation—from the technologies of the computer. Insisting on the book becomes a way to make the reader’s body participate in the text, to be sure. But it is also a way to make the reader a kind of instigator or operator of the text. The narrative provides an apt image for this process when it tells us that one of main characters, George, re-watches the same iPad video over and over again. She does this, she says, because she wants to witness the “happening,” by which she means the fact of circulation rather than the represented acts. We too are asked to witness the happening: the way the book presents itself to us, the way its words and ideas visually and figuratively twist into other words, and our experience as readers and handlers of the object. The reader’s experience is inseparable from the novel’s plot.
 Read the full article at the link.

NPM 2016 - FPR Prompts - April 6th

on April 10, 2016 with 0 comments » |

A response to Noah Eli Gordon's Prompt #5 at Found Poetry Review:
Write a sonnet in the modern key: 
Line 1: narrate action, include at least two nouns
Line 2: ask a question without using “I”
Line 3: make a statement without saying “I”
Line 4: now say “I” in another statement
Line 5: use a fragment
Line 6: narrate another action, include one of the nouns from line 1
Line 7: ask a question using “I”
Line 8: use a fragment that
Line 9: spills into the next line
Line 10: now say “I” and include the other noun from line 1
Line 11: answer your first question
Line 12: make a statement that is in total opposition to line 3
Line 13: combine phrases from lines 5 and 8 here
Line 14: answer your second question
This poem could be improved upon but as a first quick attempt, possibly to be reworked on later, here's a start.

"His flirtation with disgrace was only that, not a ruinous infacuation." - Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, by John Updike
Licks of Love
by Sanjeev Naik
I wake up from dreams, the taste of memories on my tongue
Have you been remembering me?
I left before you woke up
but I never really left.
For now,
I slip into our memories, languidly amorous.
Will I always forget love this way?
Fragments of
our dreams recur each night
I grasp for words, which slip from my tongue
- you must remember me at least once a year.
You left before I woke from my dreams
For now, fragments of
my loves linger, all the ones I never forget.

Reworking it little bit - i.e. treating the instructions in the prompt as a starting point but then reworking it to free it off the line constraints that a strict following of the rules traps the poem into.

Licks of Love
by Sanjeev Naik
I wake up from dreams, the taste of memories
on my tongue; have you been remembering me?
I left before you woke up
but I never really left.
For now, I slip in and out of
our memories, languidly amorous.
Will I always forget love this way?

Fragments of our dreams recur
each night I grasp for words, each night
they slip from my tongue - you must
remember me at least once each night.
You left before I woke from my dreams
For now, fragments of my loves linger,
All the ones I never forget.

NPM 2016 - FPR Prompts - April 7th

on April 9, 2016 with 0 comments » |

I haven't been able to keep up with the Found Review page's prompts to write a poem every day but here is my attempt at writing something based on Simone Muench's prompt on April 7th to write a cento.
The prompt: Write a cento that is a self-portrait, or anthology of your life, utilizing lines and fragments from your own work.
I had never heard of a cento before but seems like a simple idea and Muench provides "basic stipulations" for writing a traditional cento.
A cento is a poem made entirely of lines from other poems. The name comes from the Latin word meaning a cloak made out of patches. The cento differs from found poetry in that every line is taken from another poem, instead of just any borrowed material.

I dont write too often but took 10 lines from 10 (half-baked) poems written in the 2010-2016 period and randomly chose a line I liked while reading the poem -- with no thought or relation or theme in mind i.e. no influence of history or memory in picking the lines) -- and once I had the ten lines in 1 place, I've paired them together as I see fit.

I only  changed a few minor things (guiding to guided, advising to advise , *him to a me, changed one line break,)... that's all
Lucian Freud - Reflection (Self-Portrait)
by Sanjeev Naik

I took a wrong turn and came here
our failures guided me further

The weight of words
advise me to go seek my calm in Brazil

Colors blend into white
a continuum of listless reassurances.

No ink stains my fingers, I now only know
an unknown darkness

If it is the trees that have gone languid
a darkness envelopes me. I wake up...

NPM 2016 - FPR Prompts - April 3rd

on April 3, 2016 with 0 comments » |

FPR's prompt for April 3rd stumped me initially but then I thought of playing with a long word that rather amuses me. :-)

Not sure what Nico Vassilakis who came up with the prompt had in mind but this is my contribution; took just a few minutes to come up with once I thought of the word and what to do with it; so didn't stare at it too long in trying to "discorporate" the word!

NPM 2016 - FPR Prompts - April 2nd

on April 2, 2016 with 0 comments » |

Found Poetry Review Prompt for April 2nd: To use bureaucrat/found language and rework with language from another poem or one of your own abandoned projects.

Not sure I did this right - have to take some liberties because a pure noun-for-noun replacement isn't perfect. So, adding a few  words (very few) here and there and omitting a few parts of the sentence was fine, I thought. Also took the title and last line from Whitman's poem instead of the source text.

Source text:


And after re-working with nouns from Whitman's Song of Myself, Section 45. (I love Whitman's open-hearted spirit and wish there was more of it in the US today; especially in today's ugly rhetoric from Trump, Cruz, and others.)
Stamp featuring Walt Whitman - USA 1950s

Anyways, here's the poem:
“My rendezvous is appointed”
by Sanjeev Naik

Now was seen the maddest span of youth
explaining this imaginary manhood
- instead of saying, 'Oh, you foolish and benighted lovers’,
you mistake the lips; there are no colored skin
 like yourselves in these black streets and public halls.


A widely different and subordinate night;
natures and wants so different
that you can never amalgamate
or mix your rivers. 


Design them for a different moment of my life,
to change which, or to attempt to change which, must,
in the handfuls out of their hearts, ruin us all.

Age and dying days have assented to this
condition of the dark hush in the abstract, forsooth!


A thousandth scuttle of the night, expended by the cipher
edge to propagate their sun, rendering wheels impossible;
but Alas!

The ablest partners, soundest circuit,
and the greatest specks the world ever saw.


Worlds seem to have but little surfaces,
of the leagues  of limitless space which governs
and must govern in our limitless times.

"My rendezvous is appointed."

Note: the poem has erased any evidence of the racism in the source text. That was my point. Collier Nogues talked about the poetry of erasure. I liked that idea. I've erased all tones of racist vile stuff in the source text by Whitmanizing the poem. (Again, there isn't too much obviously from Whitman either - so it doesnt remind the reader obviously of his work or ethos but the nouns I introduced did come from his Song of Myself, Section 45.

 I'll share some posts this month in response to Found Poetry Review's prompts every day.
Here's the first attempt on April 1st - in response to Patrick Williams' prompt.
Disclaimer: It was late on Friday evening - after work and dinner - when I hurriedly tried it and so am sure if I gave it enough time, I could do better.... but I gave up half-way through trying something meaningful with the first prompt. I was a bit mentally tired but also piqued by the rather unseemly title it was forcing on me. In fact, I've gone ahead today (April 2nd). when I revised the half-baked attempt from yesterday, and changed the title from the suggested one since it ruins the poem. 

Anyways, it isn't like this is for publication or a serious attempt - all just an attempt to have some discipline to write something (anything!) every day (which is something - given that I rarely have the discipline to write) and an experiment to have some fun. So, while I should keep it to myself, I'm going to start sharing my half-baked attempts at Found Poetry at this blog.
Rewrite a sentence or phrase from these two pages to make it about Security guards and use it to begin a poem entitled "Colorado--Social life and customs--19th century."

[1] Proceedings of the annual meeting of the International Association
of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions v. 6 (1919) | from the HathiTrust Digital Library

I chose this sentence: "While there have been increases both in the percentage of wages paid as compensation and in the maximum amount that can be paid as compensation, the increased cost of living and the general rise in wages during the past few years leave the workman to-day in no better, if as good, a position as he was in under the apparently smaller compensation of the earlier acts."
by Sanjeev Naik

Recompense me this cost of living;
Standing guard here, my cost of living

In position
all day, in no better shape
than the past few years,
and leaving me with a lower wage
and the goodness of my
earlier acts.


I did try a 2nd prompt (because it is just a click on his prompt-engine)... and it told me to start a poem titled Boxing.. making use of twenty-two words from these two pages [1]. I think could have made something of this and I've downloaded the 2-pages it offered to do this but haven't given it a try.

[1] The Stamp herald; a monthly journal published in ... v. 4-6 (Sept. 1918-Aug. 1921).


Image above: Street Art by Banksy. Given his ethos, I don't think he'd mind me using it here as I don't intend to use this for any commercial gains.

I heard of Tracy K. Smith some years ago when she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her book, Life on Mars. (Per her Poetry Foundation bio and bio, she was born in Massachusetts in 1972 and got her BA from Harvard University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.)

An excerpt from one of her poems as today's poem. 

    My God, It's Full of Stars
    by Tracy K. Smith


    We like to think of it as parallel to what we know,
    Only bigger. One man against the authorities.
    Or one man against a city of zombies. One man
    Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand
    The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants
    Let loose down the pants of America. Man on the run.
    Man with a ship to catch, a payload to drop,
    This message going out to all of space. . . . Though
    Maybe it’s more like life below the sea: silent,
    Buoyant, bizarrely benign. Relics
    Of an outmoded design. Some like to imagine
    A cosmic mother watching through a spray of stars,
    Mouthing yes, yes as we toddle toward the light,
    Biting her lip if we teeter at some ledge. Longing
    To sweep us to her breast, she hopes for the best
    While the father storms through adjacent rooms
    Ranting with the force of Kingdom Come,
    Not caring anymore what might snap us in its jaw.
    Sometimes,  what I see is a library in a rural community.
    All the tall shelves in the big open room. And the pencils
    In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population.
    The books have lived here all along, belonging
    For weeks at a time to one or another in the brief sequence
    Of family names, speaking (at night mostly) to a face,
    A pair of eyes. The most remarkable lies.

The full poem can be read here.
P.S. Coincidentally, just found that she is in the New York Times today in one of their cooking related features - Close at Hand, which "celebrates the objects, practical or precious, that cooks find indispensable."