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Archive for April, 2009

It was a spur of the moment decision, to try and write one short poem a day and post it as a Twitter update during National Poetry Month. I thought I could keep it modest – one poem a day seemed doable – knowing that I had a school deadline and a family trip to DC planned for the middle of the month. I didn’t need any more stress so I wasn’t going to beat myself up over missing a day or two if the muse didn’t strike.

Instead, the muse taunted me with the challenge to try and write three a day. One month, thirty days, ninety-nine haiku.

well, the month is over and the holiday took some of the wind from my sails and I only managed eighty-three haiku for the month. Some days they would just spring forth like schools of flying fish, and other days they were mud-monsters unable to free themselves from the mire.

So here they are, the final batch of twitku, the haiku I Twittered for the last week of National Poetry Month. Anything in italics was revised after the initial posting, since Twitter is unforgiving about editing what’s been posted.

bare feet in cool grass
lemonade mixed with iced tea
sidelined soccer dad

armies of young ants
examine sidewalk cracks for
proof of harsh winter

one slice too many
is there really such a thing
where pizza’s concerned?

heat intensifies
birds complain, pollen explodes
what happened to spring?

cool guacamole
buttery, earthy, spicy
but who will make it?

blurred close-up flowers
tilted double-exposures
pinhole camera

bicycle bulb horn
asthmatic honking of a
neighborhood nuisance

when heat becomes itch
salty sweat stings as it dries
sun-kissed to sunburnt

pause in someone’s woods
quiet, lovely, dark and deep
but i am tired
(apologies to bob frost)

fog creeps like a cat
nestles in, a languid nap
stretches, and moves on
(sorry, mr. sandburg)

procrastination
a form of abandonment
sans lingering guilt

in a shady nook
three bumblebees congregate
fanning and fawning

you never told me
to call it an accident –
it was, wasn’t it?

sun-soaked gauze blanket
zephyr sheets, impromptu bed
afternoon nap time

rules for sweeping stairs:
top to bottom, left to right
next time, someone else

the magnolia tree
carpets the driveway in pink
life’s fleeting beauty

electronics run
sinuses and faucets run
everything but me

pandemonium
teachers hand out latex gloves
kids shouting “fight! fight!”

hearing nat cole sing
butter toffee smooth and calm
memories echo

black cats and magpies
stealing bright shiny objects
cannot help themselves

fingernail moon
celestial guillotine
severs night in half

mother used to say
“what goes around comes around”
just like her mother

face on the pillow
why does yesterday stare back?
slept with make-up on

tissue paper moth
solo ticker-tape parade
for curious dog

the final great auk
perched upon volcanic rock
went without a squawk

agility comes
when you least expect it to
pure acuity

not recommended:
wasabi-spiced rice crackers
and peanut butter

a final poem
melancholy exhaustion
at the finish line

I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep dropping twitku as they come to me but not worry so much about making it daily. Twitter’s 140 character limit is perfect for little bons mots of poetic goodness. I’m still thinking I might want to try getting the Limick form down.

For those of you who’ve had enough of mine, you can check out the Poetry Friday Round Up today hosted by Maya Ganesan over at allegro. And in case you missed my previous twitku, or don’t feel like dredging up the separate posts, here are all the other ones I wrote this month. There seem to be a lot of haiku about food for some reason…

like schoolyard children
cats rumpus around the house
silently laughing

this week, pizza box
accepted, but not last week –
recycling’s complex!

chewy dough pockets
bathed in briny golden broth –
homemade wonton soup

cardinal flanked by
angry mob of scolding jays
springtime apartheid

i plot, plan, outline
organize, note, fret and fuss
– my words need a walk

lit up christmas tree
in an empty apartment
glares at april rains

abraham lincoln:
poetry enthusiast
cockfight referee

benjamin franklin:
nudist vegetarian
son-of-a-chandler!

for kerouac, fame
was the buddha to kill with
liquor on the road

how does that joke go?
if my dog shaved his face, i’d –
no, that’s not it…

trees shed winter coats
last season’s leaves revealed:
plastic shopping bags

more branches than leaves
more dirt than flowers or grass
transition season

paperback spinner
yellowed memories smell like
pulp and sour milk

ancient old geezers
an ancient backgammon set
beneath ancient skies

bald light bulb against
a mottled cobalt ceiling
ugly city moon

eyes roll, guilty stare
“it’s lip balm, dad, not lipstick”
growing up so fast

chondroitin, statins
glucosamine, fish oil
old man old knees old

solos with a spoon
simmers in swing, blends bop hard
jazz dad keeps it cool

(inspired by http://tiny.cc/JkuMO)

one minute: sunbeams
pink tips burst from tree branches
now: sleet pelts them back

a sudden stillness
charged ozone, tiny hairs dance
when the lightning strikes

time melts slow like ice
into liquid memories
then evaporates

skitter and flutter
lepidopteran monarchs
flies made of butter

pen found in the washer
writes at first then bleeds to death
laundry scribicide

drawings on cave wall
stick men and antelope blobs
dance secret dances

shifting northern light
excites the inner artist
distracts the writer

head hits the pillow
the promise of sleep broken
the pillow fights back

frustrating morning
afternoon is no better
where’s the chocolate?

even number in
after wash, odd number out
socks on vacation

seven-eleven
wedged in gaps where we lost teeth
golden gum nuggets

pants no longer fit
gave up exercise for lent
what did i expect?

ninety year old man
yard full of stubborn saplings
rakes leaves all year long

the ghost cannot speak
her punishment is her voice
replaced with dry fog

silent stiff sentries
shoulder to shoulder, alert
on reference shelves

surrealism
can save the environment
fish need bicycles

what the seahorse saw
and what the horsey saw
isn’t what the sawhorse see

hips and knees ache first
stomach churns, then headaches bloom
fever coming soon

way too many books
why are so many so bad?
parceling out time

sun-warmed cotton loops
with the smell of damp rubber
the drying bath mat

the barber chatters
as if either of us cares
it’s all for the tip

haircuts look their best
with dark colored, collared shirts
but only briefly

red suit, yellow tie
a poor choice of attire
at the funeral

a walk around town
bright and breezy, rank and foul
behind garbage trucks

juvenile crow
atop a shaggy pine tree
garbles a greeting

a piece of cake, please
true, it’s not on my diet
but i’d still like some

i don’t see a hose
looks like the gardener peed
on the rose bushes

for a lack of cheese
the carbonara i planned
will just have to wait

gold stars for the dead
fountains and reflecting pools
granite-stilled voices

windless afternoon
girls running in circles
willing kites to fly

hand-groomed stone orchard
smooth obsidian roll call
no one answers “here”

how many versions
of squonky late-night standards
can one sax endure?

street corner battle
crazy man and saxophone
everyone loses

washington DC
everything is free except
the cost of living

swollen feet, stiff legs
dirty clothes, cameras spent
vacation over

well above the street
the tap of high heels like
a dripping faucet

rain jacket morning
shorts and flip-flops afternoon
indecisive spring

Huh, lots of birds in there as well.

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Taking a jump on the girl’s Spring Break we jetted down to Washington D.C. for a whirlwind of what the nation’s capitol has to offer.  Plenty of museums, plenty of photo ops, lots of walking and sore feet and relatively few complaints all around.

I had intended to keep up with the Twitter haiku while on vacation, if not in the Internets at least in a notebook.  That worked for the first couple of days, and I was even able to post a few of them, and then… Life.  It has this funny way of getting in the way.  And vacations tend to work best when they pull you from the routines and allow you to experience something outside of your routines. And so the haiku failed to come, mostly due to the other various preoccupations of the brain.

So I wasn’t able to post a round-up of twitku last week, but I am back and it looks like I’m still on track toward meeting my goal of a haiku a day for the month.

Without further excuses ado, the twitku since the last twitku round-up.

even number in
after wash, odd number out
socks on vacation

seven-eleven
wedged in gaps where we lost teeth
golden gum nuggets

pants no longer fit
gave up exercise for lent
what did i expect?

ninety year old man
yard full of stubborn saplings
rakes leaves all year long

the ghost cannot speak
her punishment is her voice
replaced with dry fog

silent stiff sentries
shoulder to shoulder, alert
on reference shelves

surrealism
can save the environment
fish need bicycles

what the seahorse saw
and what the horsey saw
isn’t what the sawhorse see

hips and knees ache first
stomach churns, then headaches bloom
fever coming soon

way too many books
why are so many so bad?
parceling out time

sun-warmed cotton loops
with the smell of damp rubber
the drying bath mat

the barber chatters
as if either of us cares
it’s all for the tip

haircuts look their best
with dark colored, collared shirts
but only briefly

red suit, yellow tie
a poor choice of attire
at the funeral

a walk around town
bright and breezy, rank and foul
behind garbage trucks

juvenile crow
atop a shaggy pine tree
garbles a greeting

a piece of cake, please
true, it’s not on my diet
but i’d still like some

i don’t see a hose
looks like the gardener peed
on the rose bushes

for a lack of cheese
the carbonara i planned
will just have to wait

gold stars for the dead
fountains and reflecting pools
granite-stilled voices

windless afternoon
girls running in circles
willing kites to fly

hand-groomed stone orchard
smooth obsidian roll call
no one answers “here”

how many versions
of squonky late-night standards
can one sax endure?

street corner battle
crazy man and saxophone
everyone loses

washington DC
everything is free except
the cost of living

swollen feet, stiff legs
dirty clothes, cameras spent
vacation over

well above the street
the tap of high heels like
a dripping faucet

rain jacket morning
shorts and flip-flops afternoon
indecisive spring

That’s i for the past two weeks. Only one revision (in italics) this time around, mostly because I haven’t really had any time to reconsider some of the weaker ones since I’ve been home. Okay, okay, sorry about the excuses.

This week’s Poetry Friday is lurking under the covers this week.

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#amazonfail: nothing new

This whole thing with Amazon is so twenty minutes ago, so forgive me for coming in late. I was busy. Busy writing. Busy not shopping, not at Amazon.com or anyplace else.

Why is anyone surprised by this? Aside from whether or not there was a “glitch” or an “error” or the determined efforts of an individual who figured out how to game the system (or, as Amazon now claims, a single employee in France who didn’t understand the difference between “adult” and “erotic”), I have a hard time understanding how anyone can be surprised that a company this large, vested with this much sales power, could have something like this happen to them.

And online petitions? Five million Twitterers tweeting away? Do you think they care?

No, seriously, think about the numbers involved, the dollars, and think about whether or not they care. For every one of those five million people spreading the word of Amazon’s Great PR Failure, how many more millions of average consumers the world over who plug into Amazon and Amazon only couldn’t care less so long as they get their SuperSaver free shipping? Amazon probably took a sales hit in the wake of this fiasco, and a year from now their numbers are going to be up and people are going to be shopping with them the same way they buy Tylenol despite a bad case of tampering a few decades ago. And pretty much the same way: they’ll introduce “tamper-proof” packaging to make everyone feel more secure, send out a bushel of PR (and coupons), and then go about pretending like the incident was a bad case of gas.

The thing is, the sales ranks and searches, they never meant anything to me. I don’t trust Amazon to feed me information I need to make decisions because they’re in the business of making money for themselves, they have a vested interest in how their proprietary information is handled. I find what I need through local library services, or other sites, compare against Amazon and then usually buy elsewhere. They’re a great place to double-check ISBNs or publication dates or to cross-reference a plot summary, but not to go in blindly asking for their help finding something. You don’t walk onto a car lot and ask the commissioned salesperson to recommend the best car and deal available and expect to be guided to another dealership down the street.

So while I do find it distressing that suddenly a large portion of Amazon-ranked titles with gay or lesbian themes temporarily disappeared from searches, and that lame excuses were doled out in the wake of this issue, I don’t find this de facto “censorship” any more troubling than the rest of the country when they accepted the government “restricting” reporters from reporting on the Gulf War without military approval. Different meaning of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” going on there, that’s for sure.

In fact, what troubles me more is Amazon’s move to crush the publishing industry altogether through it’s Kindle platform. Man, people are drinking the Kool-Aid on that one like there’s no tomorrow.

Folks, listen, I’m not a rah-rah Amazon supporter, I just think that Amazon has failed on so many fronts that to hit them with this one seems… weak? This is the result of a capitalist republic, the law of the business jungle. Amazon will make blunders, but ehy will recover because we are Americans and we shop! Allowed to grow unfettered into the behemoth it now is, nothing can fell the Amazonmonster short of a totalitarian takeover of government, and even then I suspect they have a better approval rating than most politicians. Amazon didn’t fail, it picked up five million people speaking its name in public, drawing attention to itself, drawing visitors to their site to check it out for themselves. And if they lost five million customers, are they really going to hurt in the long run?

David didn’t pull down Goliath by aiming at his ankles. #amazonfailfail, it’s double-plus good.

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Well, this is going better than I imagined. On April first on a whim I decided I’d try to manage one haiku a day as a Twitter experiment. It was either a low bar, my efforts are lame, or I’m in the midst of a creative brain jolt. Either way, the twitku have been flowing. Here’s this past week’s collection of my original contributions to National Poetry Month.

Poems in italics are revisions of the original posts, which generally went up moments after they were conceived.

abraham lincoln:
poetry enthusiast
cockfight referee

benjamin franklin:
nudist vegetarian
son-of-a-chandler!

for kerouac, fame
was the buddha to kill with
liquor on the road

how does that joke go?
if my dog shaved his face, i’d –
no, that’s not it…

trees shed winter coats
last season’s leaves revealed:
plastic shopping bags

more branches than leaves
more dirt than flowers or grass
transition season

paperback spinner
yellowed memories smell like
pulp and sour milk

ancient old geezers
an ancient backgammon set
beneath ancient skies

bald light bulb against
a mottled cobalt ceiling
ugly city moon

eyes roll, guilty stare
“it’s lip balm, dad, not lipstick”
growing up so fast

chondroitin, statins
glucosamine, fish oil
old man old knees old

solos with a spoon
simmers in swing, blends bop hard
jazz dad keeps it cool

(inspired by http://tiny.cc/JkuMO)

one minute: sunbeams
pink tips burst from tree branches
now: sleet pelts them back

a sudden stillness
charged ozone, tiny hairs dance
when the lightning strikes

time melts slow like ice
into liquid memories
then evaporates

skitter and flutter
lepidopteran monarchs
flies made of butter

pen found in the washer
writes at first then bleeds to death
laundry scribicide

drawings on cave wall
stick men and antelope blobs
dance secret dances

shifting northern light
excites the inner artist
distracts the writer

head hits the pillow
the promise of sleep broken
the pillow fights back

frustrating morning
afternoon is no better
where’s the chocolate?

Care to follow along? I’m delzey on Twitter. If you haven’t already you should check out GottaBook and 30 Days 30 Poets this month for lots of extra crunchy poetry goodness.

The Poetry Friday shindig is rounded up to the nearest dollar over at Carol’s Corner. Plenty of poetry goodness to go around.

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My life isn’t complicated enough.  I made a last minute decision to try and write a short twitter-length poem each day this month.  This is going to be a bit rough when I’m traveling to DC in a couple of weeks, but it isn’t like I’ll get fired from my own blog for falling down on the job.

If all goes well, each Friday during National Poetry Month I’ll round up the tweet-poems I wrote during the previous week.  Haiku’s seem best suited for the dimensions of twitter, but we’ll see if I get inspired to try something different as the month goes on.  Would a Limick fit? Hmm.

like schoolyard children
cats rumpus around the house
silently laughing

this week, pizza box
accepted, but not last week –
recycling’s complex!

chewy dough pockets
bathed in briny golden broth –
homemade wonton soup

cardinal flanked by
angry mob of scolding jays
springtime apartheid

i plot, plan, outline
organize, note, fret and fuss
– my words need a walk

lit up christmas tree
in an empty apartment
glares at april rains

Not sure if I should really be associatig myself with all the good stuff out there, but Poetry Friday is rounded-up at ayudda.net this week.

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I flirted with journalism in high school.  I wasn’t disciplined enough then to think I could do print journalism but I had an eye and thought I could make a go as a photojournalist.  The usual irrational fears stopped me from chasing that particular dream, but I’ve always regarded journalism as one of the twin career girlfriends I was too shy to pursue (the other was animation).  Every once in a while I get to wondering what might have been, what could have been, and look at the current state of affairs and imagine myself there, in the newsrooms (and animation studios) doing all the things I coulda-woulda been doing.

Every other week it seems another newspaper folds, alternating weeks with newspapers that scale back and lay off reporters. The great cry is that the Internet is killing newspapers, that with so much “free” content out there that newspaper cannot compete, that the economy has killed ad revenues that kept papers alive.

The reality is that newspapers killed newspapers.  They haven’t evolved with their readership, and I’m not just talking about technology.  They relinquished their position as guardians of the Fourth Estate and in doing so let the government walk all over them.  They stopped seeing themselves as providers of news and instead became delivery devices for advertisers.  While stoically presenting the news in time-honored style they allowed themselves to fall out of fashion with readers who were being groomed to accept entertainment as news when they should have been the guide that helped consumers reject these lowered standards.  Fox News, and to a lesser extent CNN, could only exist in a world where newspapers made themselves irrelevant.  The problems with newspaper today has been brewing for decades.

But earlier today I was thinking about the death knoll of newspapers while riding mass transit. On a packed commuter trolley there were dozens of people, easily half the people I could see, reading one of three daily newspapers available to them.  I saw people pull apart sections and toss away the ones they didn’t want to read.  I saw people fold their papers into manageable sections that could be read in the cramped space of a seat during rush hour.  I saw people attempting to wield the unwieldy tangle of papers.

E-ink, or electronic tablets are eventually going to replace newspapers, I’m fairly certain.  But imagining that newspaper could still retain a print format for any number of reason, they would need to radically reinvent themselves for the 21st century.  They need to discover the New in News and recognize that their 19th century ways just wont cut it.  And it needs to be a radical change in order for it to work, no piecemeal changes that lose readers bit by bit and never get a chance.  Newspaper need to recognize that they must change, change big, and become news themselves if they intend to survive in any sort of print format.

To that end I modestly present The Five New’s of News

1.  New format.  Stop the presses and reformat the print runs to conform to consumer use.  They should be half-tabloid size, halved the long way, to come in around 6 x 17 inches.  This allows for two good-sized columns of text, reasonably sized photos, and more importantly a shape that can stand on its own without complicated folding or difficult manipulation in tight spaces.  Whether it s bound by staples or not would depend on the finished page count, but ideally it would be saddle stitched with a mammoth staple to hold it together. And no separate sections of the paper, because when you don’t have the news to fill them it makes the paper look pathetic.  All-in-one, like a book, with many unique chapters.

These changes are for daily papers, Monday through Friday.  For the weekends, dump the Saturday paper — no one really cares, no one reads it, and it saves paper — and print either a full tabloid or broadsheet-sized edition full of in-depth reporting on stories from the week and special stories that aren’t as time sensitive.  It should have more of a magazine feel, in look and content, something that doesn’t feel like the daily newspapers at all.

2. New subsections. It’s always pissed me off the way newspapers appeal business — with its own section — but no section for Labor.  I’m not talking about cute little sections about the workplace with tips on ergonomic seating and keyboards, I mean hard examinations of labor relations at home and abroad, contract deals and employer relations.

You know what else we don’t talk about?  Race.  Put it in a less threatening Race & Culture subheading and lets get the discussions out in the open.  And not fluff pieces on the clothing or foods of other nations but some serious examinations of attitudes other non-American cultures have about education, religion, and politics.  We never seem to know anything about other cultures until we have to send peace-keeping forces in to quell ethnic cleansing or humanitarian aid against famine or disease.  This isn’t just a questions of “International News,” this is about our blindered view of other cultures unless the US feels the political need to get involved.

I’m also going to advocate for a Literature section, separate from the arts, that includes not only book reviews but also new fiction and poetry.  There’s no reason we can have papers full of crappy daily comic strips (that aren’t even funny or clever) and not have a couple column inches of verse or a short story from a new voice.  This section can also include hard news about the publishing industry the same way that Hollywood gets coverage almost daily for deals and grosses.  You want a literate society, you have to give literature something more than lip service.

I know some papers already have features for Science and Technology, but I’d like to see the tech side be a bit more about explaining how technology works, how it’s applied, and what the human effects are.  As it stands right now, most tech sections read like auto sections: reprints of corporate press releases.  And speaking of, lets dump the automotive focus and talk about Transportation in a way that covers everything from public transit to bicycling to high speed rail.  Again, this is about hard news items, not fluff about the industry’s latest models.

Finally (though there’s always room for more), we really need regular coverage on the Environment.  I’d actually prefer the term Ecology because it includes all discussions about organisms interacting with the environment, it’s all-encompassing.

3. New style.  This is about the writing itself.  Get in and get out.  Six paragraphs for a story at the most: one each for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of a traditional story.  Not as dry and rigid as that, but pithy and with flair.  If a story requires or suggest more depth suggest an online link and promote a longer version coming in the Sunday edition.  People want to take in as much news as they can in as short a period as possible.  Shorter stories that give them the basics.  Throw out the inverted pyramid and think like radio news.

This would allow more content than headline news on the internet and television, but not feel like a chore when you want a snapshot of the world’s news on a 20 minute commute.  Seriously, stop giving readers three hours worth of reading and tell them to find the articles that apeal to them.  Give them a solid newspaper’s worth of stories without having to choose.

4. New priceFree.  Let’s be real, newspapers have to decide whether they want to accept ad revenue or reader revenue, but not both.  Charge for at-home delivery, but make them free in the racks, or stop taking ads and charge.  Chances are that isn’t economically feasible, but at this point the American newspaper is running out of options.  Charge more for ads and stop hitting up the consumer.

5. New voices.  The newsroom is going to have to accept that the old days of large rooms of folks plugging away on stories no longer works.  Instead, each section has an editor and a small army of fact checkers to edit news submitted by… anyone.  Call them freelancers, call them stringers, call them correspondents, just don’t put them on the payroll or give them assignments.  Naturally there will be journalists out there hunting down the stories, but there are armies, legions, of people equally capable and all over the neighborhoods and nations who can tell the same stories, and better.

Newspapers would still have style sheets for submissions, contributors would be given by-lines.  There could be an electronic bulletin board calling for specific stories open to all, stories open to a network of professionals with backgrounds or track records, and stories done in-house or assigned to specialists.  The web has made the world into a village, and the newspaper now has to become the town square whee people come to give their reports from the outlying areas.  Newspapers are already sharing the resources from each other’s newsrooms, they just need to take things a step further and open them up to everyone.  Not amateur filler, the way TV news now broadcasts people’s cell phone videos as news, but real news written by people with a witness to news, reported in a way that informs.

That said, newspapers are probably doomed.  If, as Obama has said, the economy is an ocean liner that takes a while to turn back on course, newspapers have become asteroids that I doubt can be shifted from their orbits; at this point they are probably on a collision course with the sun.  I’d lie to think that if I had gone into photojournalism that I would be out there, trying to find the images that capture the story.  Given a chance to cover the current state of newspapers I would probably have to take an artful shot — in black and white — of a freshly dug grave awaiting a new occupant.

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