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Archive for April, 2011

I say near-final because there will be two more day’s worth of twitku – today’s and tomorrow’s – to finish out my National Poetry Month three-a-day twitter haiku.  Why not include those two here in the round-up?  Because i cook up all my twitter haiku fresh and I don’t have them written yet!  So I’m thinking there will need to be a final round-up on May 1st, a Poetry Sunday if you will.

As for keeping up with the blues and bummers?  Yeah, that’s sort of faded a bit.  I mean, there’s still a fair bit of life’s downers in here (hopefully more humorous than dour) but it’s hard to complain about the beach bummers (because you are, after all, still at the beach), and dinosaurs?  Really?  Blues haikus about dinosaurs?

22 April 2011
mother nature’s here
a bit hot-headed these days
give her a wide berth

polar bear surfing
his home literally shrinks
beneath his own paws

observe new species
emerging from the ocean
covered in oil

23 April 2011
meteor shower?
aurora borealis?
just a concussion

going head-to-head
with a clear goal and keen eye
hammer still hits thumb

it may look festive
but urgently grated cheese
should never be red

24 April 2011
imagine armies
fighting for literacy
instead of freedom

lascaux cave paintings
man’s earliest attempt at
news, weather, and sports

fishing begat the
second oldest professional:
a storyteller

25 April 2011
with old age, vision
with chocolate easter bunnies
ears are first to go

not remembering
is better than not knowing
what you’ve forgotten

yellow lights flashing
in time with the body aches
it’s time to slow down
26 April 2011
pleasures of the beach
real sand in sandwiches
not enough sunscreen

hidden expenses
blood money for a beach stroll
broken sand dollar

swimming with sharks, rays
jellyfish stings, pinching crabs
neptune hates tourists

27 April 2011
every journey
brings new opportunities~
got on the wrong train

at dinner parties
contagious conversation
foot-in-mouth disease

what happens when the
early birds don’t get the worm?
apple pie surprise

28 April 2011
expansionism
traveling broadens the mind
sloth broadens the ass

at memory bank
compounded interest daily
but no joint accounts

“would you look at that!
the sun has come to visit!”
dinosaur’s last words

Oh yeah, Poetry Friday for one last time this National Poetry Month.  How is everyone else noting this occasion?  Tabatha over at her blog The Opposite of Indifference has this week’s round-up.  Take a gander and see for yourself.

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main ingredients:

  • 1 rich Widow of the valley, relatively sane but fearful of her son
  • 1 widow’s son, the Fool, totally stupid with crazy ideas, very unpredictable
  • 1 Young Woman, daughter of a distinguished Gentleman, perhaps too kind

the gifts:

  • 1 pair gentleman’s gloves, soft Spanish leather, muddied and rain-soaked
  • 1 hawk, alive, but with handkerchief ready
  • 1 large plowman’s hoe
  • 1 large piece bacon, tied to the tail of a horse, followed by clever dogs.

at home:

  • 1 cellar full of wine, spilled
  • 1 large sack of flour, spread across wine
  • 1 large female goose, nesting, eggs included
  • 1 pot of honey
  • 1 feathered bed quilt

topping:

  • 1 stable full of sheep, eyes removed

Slowly introduce the Fool to the Young Woman. Add the gifts one at a time, beginning with the gloves.  Have the Fool wear the gloves until ruined by rain.  Return Fool to Young Woman and add live hawk. Have Fool wring hawk’s neck and wrap it in a handkerchief. When the Young Woman begins to react to the Fool, introduce the plowman’s hoe, followed by the piece of bacon (have the Fool attach the bacon to the horse’s tail). Once the bacon has been lost to clever dogs set aside the Young Woman to rest.

If you are worried the Young Woman might not take to the Fool, be patient. The Young Woman will have come from noble stock and will not be so quick to spoil owing to her upbringing and the Widow’s dowry.

While the Widow is sent to arrange a marriage between the Fool and the Young Woman (and before she can come to her senses), send the Fool to the basement.  Liberally cover the basement floor with a barrel of wine, sprinkled with a sack of flour until the wine is no longer visible. When the Fool panics and believes the goose is threatening to tattle, have the Fool chop off the goose’s neck.  Replace the goose on the nest with the Fool covered in honey and the feathers from the quilt. Set until the Widow returns home.

Once the Widow has returned have her give the Fool one final dressing in preparation to receive the Young Woman.  When instructed to only cast his eyes upon the Young Woman, have the Fool go to the stable and remove all the eyes from the sheep. The Fool should be ready to cast the sheep’s eyes lovingly upon the Young Woman as they meet. When the Young Woman leaves, never to return or marry the Fool, then the tale is done.

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The New Grimmoire is my on-going take on the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm.  All stories are inspired from the translation by Jack Zipes’ Third Edition of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.  Today also marks the completion of the section “Selected Tales From the Annotations of 1856” which comprise stories 263 to 279.  I have been working backward through the book, so today’s corresponds with story number 263, last week’s with 264, etc.  Will I be able to keep this up for another 262 weeks?  We shall see, we shall see…

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Time to get my annual anti-summer reading rant out of the way.

The conventional thinking about required summer reading is that without it kids will fall into the “summer slump.”  What I always see as the argument is that without summer reading kids “slide back” two months in their education, which then requires two months worth of review at the beginning of the school year to get students back up to speed.

There’s something fundamentally wrong with this thinking.  With this sort of 5:1 ratio of learning to loss do we see similar problems after a week’s vacation, where kids have to spend their first day back reviewing what was taught the week before the vacation?  In a six hour school day, have kids already forgotten what they learned in the first hour by the end of the sixth hour?

What about other subjects?  Surely without the regular reinforcement math and language skills slump over the summer as well, yet we don’t see the same push for these programs (though I do know they exist in some places).

What is known is that without school during the summer there seems to be a measurable slump in literacy. And anecdotally when summer reading programs are in place (and generally must be enforced in some way) the slump is prevented. This would suggest that either we are failing to meet our children’s educational needs for year-round learning (an economic impossibility as I understand it), or a failure of education in general.

The failure comes in raising a culture of students who have no desire to read unless they are forced to through summer reading.

Seriously, if we raise a culture of learners to believe that reading is something that is programmed, and only to be done when required, can we really be surprised that reading drops off the minute their formal education ends? What’s a two-month slump between school years compared to the decades adults spend not reading because they aren’t “required” to?  If we as a nation have a problem with the populace being unable to parse their way through the doggerel of punditry and the inability to sort out media bias from true journalism, how can we expect anything less if we train young minds that reading is a programmed activity to be endured until graduation?

I won’t dwell on the problems of economic inequality and access; it’s too obvious to ignore the fact that towns with money for good schools and libraries and better teachers aren’t going to see the same problems as those who are lacking.

Let me make clear, I am not against reading, or even reading during the summer.  What I am against is the notion, practically a blind cult-like belief, that summer reading programs are a panacea to a far larger problem we are unwilling to address.  We hear the national conversation about education, about the importance of it, and yet will not accept any responsibility for the underlying problem: given the choice, many children would not choose reading as a free-time activity. Blame what you will – internet, parental influence, economics – but don’t blame the children and don’t place the additional burden on them to correct the problem.

Required summer reading is the band-aid to a gaping wound that is never completely dressed.  It becomes a flag around which people rally to make themselves feel as if they are tackling a serious issue when they are not. Kids should enter the summer wanting to read on their own, asking their teachers and librarians (and parents) to recommend books to them.

If we as a society have made the right choices in deciding how our children are educated, in how they consume media and prioritize their free time, then our children will enter summer not only charged up by the freedom to explore extracurricular activities but ecstatic about the possibility of being able to read anything they want as well.

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Another week in National Poetry Month, another collection of my daily Twitter haiku quasi-blues and bummers.  Toward the end of last week I found myself centering on a theme for the day’s ‘kus and that was actually a pretty good way to get me to focus.  I even actually managed to get some real traditional blues imagery in there! You can read through and pretty much guess the subject or theme of any group of twitku.

15 April 2011
living entropy
an accumulation of
disintegration

those who know don’t tell
and those who tell don’t know, but
those who laugh don’t care

the cosmic classroom
life dictates its lesson plans
and grades on a curve

16 april 2011
ol’ john barleycorn
takes everything you have, leaves
nothin’ but the proof

one night on the town
to celebrate the good things;
daily numbs the pain

a toast to the wind
cold, sobering companion
who brakes the earth’s spin

17 april 2011
avoiding potholes
while riding a bicycle
guarantees a flat

the deadliest place
for bicyclists to ride:
dedicated lanes

coasting downhill fast
is not the time to wonder
if you fixed the breaks

18 april 2011
boll weevil callin’
or that gal from Stingaree?
two roads to ruin

lover caught cheating
with another down the road
he can drink her rent

been down for so long
when I get a taste of up
it don’t feel right

19 april 2011
allergy season
wedged between humidity
and diet season

with pollenation
see the flowering of spring
through watery eyes

showers in springtime
nature shows us the fall
in backward slo-mo

20 april 2011
cherry blossom bursts
papery pink popcorn puffs
drop fade-to-black shrouds

daffodil trumpets
drown out birds, both believe
that they’re immortal

pale yellow lawn
greens flank winter’s salt-bleached streaks
only grass mourns grass

21 april 2011
hypothesis: check
experimentation: check
results: epic fail

scale replica
of a space-bound orbiter
barely clears our heads

unusual smell
jars with bread stashed in cupboards
science foul project

The last set of twitku may or may not have posted yesterday; I use Hootsuite as my Twitter client and it (along with foursquare, and my personal web page host, among others) went down yesterday as a result of a cloud failure. Amazon. Hated them from the start, and now another reason to hate them.

But you know what?  It’s Poetry Friday out there, and you can get your fill by checking the roundup over at Book Aunt.

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There once was a time when the small people reigned.
They roamed the whole planet, their lives unrestrained.
But then one day only seven remained…
Where did the small people go?

The first was a plucky young lad name of Tweedle
Who was thin as a thread and the length of a beetle.
Got himself caught in the eye of a needle…

Where did the small people go?

The next had a thirst for some freshly pressed cider.
Stole dragonfly wings and constructed a glider.
Flew into a web and sucked dry by a spider…

Where did the small people go?

The third made a bet he could steal the moon’s laughter.
Launched himself from a gun that was owned by a hamster.
They say he made it as far as hereafter…

Where did the small people go?

The next one was known as a champion jockey.
A rider of rodents, sturdy and stocky,
Took a nap on a pond where a team played ice hockey…

Where did the small people go?

The fifth made his bed on the hearth of a squire.
When he choked on the smoke and began to perspire
Yanked open the flue and was sucked into the fire…

Where did the small people go?

The next fell in love with an odd prima donna,
Who forced him to care for her old pet iguana.
With one lizard sneeze he was blown to nirvana…

Where did the small people go?

The last was determined to live to one hundred,
He fashioned a bunker inside an old woodshed,
Was bit by a zombie ant, now he is undead…

Where did the small people go?

There once was a time when the small people reigned
They roamed the whole planet, their lives unrestrained
Then one-by-one their populace drained…
Now the small people are gone!
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The New Grimmoire is a series of my interpretations of tales collected from the Brothers Grimm, many of them not as famous or familiar as the twenty or so that most people know.  This was originally called “The Small People” and I’ve mostly set the verses to an old camp song I once learned, about seven old ladies locked in a bathroom.  Give me a shout-out if you know what I’m talking about!

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Last week I was stumbling around with a notion about how I imagined the future of books would look more like apps than downloadable versions of their paper cousins. I was envisioning an interactive text, something that would allow readers to expand the depth of their reading experience, something that would simply be the digital flipping of pages.

Then my wife discovered this.  Don’t read any further until you take a look.  Seriously.  Scroll down to the sample pages, read the description of what’s included.

Are you back? That is what I was thinking about, am thinking about.

Yes, okay, it’s nonfiction, it’s the civil war, there’s plenty of material to work with. And this is a great way to deal with history, make it alive for the reader. Do this with anything, do this with art history or rock and roll or the study of infectious diseases. Daily uploads?  Why can’t this be done for text materials for classrooms, newly loaded pages every weekday for 180 days, with the ability to take notes in text that you can export to documents.

Notice the price? $8 for two YEARS worth of updates. Show me a textbook, or any print book, that can offer as much for that asking price. More importantly, show me a newspaper that can do this.  I’ll grant you, there are expenses involved in newspapers and textbooks that might mess with the price point, but if newspaper apps could promise this they’d make it up in volume.

And now, why can’t fiction do this?

Already we’ve seen books with links to web content (the Skeleton Creek series) but these feel a little more like playful treasure hunts that are a marriage of convenience at best. The videos require a password from the text, and illuminate the mystery within the story, but their integration leaves much to be desired.

The thing about this is that it totally opens up the possibility for what a writer can do with a story. Multiple and parallel storylines can be accessed, points of view shifted the same way we can view multiple camera angles in videos. The author would still have total control over what is revealed, and when, and how, so it isn’t simply a question of tossing in the kitchen sink and letting the reader find their way.

It also doesn’t have to be so complicated.  Dickens wrote many of what we consider classics in serialized newspaper formats.  Others did as well (including Stephen King a few years back though I’m unsure of the success). Why couldn’t a book app upload a new chapter once a week to a reader to the same effect?

If tablets are going to start hitting the market in 2012 with a child audience and a $75 price tag in mind, then the first real jumps in what can be done with an electronic book are going to take place with children and young adults. People are still going to have to write quality books, but the shapes those books will and how their content will be displayed, that’s a question for the future.

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I had to cry uncle on the Burma Shave poems.  They just aren’t happening.  Perhaps my internal rhythms are off this month, I don’t know.

But the Twitter haiku continue, even if my definition of the blues seems to be shifting and drifting a bit away from what we normally call the blues.  These little snapshots of life are more like bummers.  Yeah, got them old can’t-make-the-subject-match-the-form bummers. That could be a whole new style of music, where instead of singing about the heavy shroud of blues raining down all the time we can celebrate the little bummers of life, get them out of our system, and move on.

Totally without realizing it at first I found myself writing groups of poems around a mini theme. Occupational blues haikus, blues for things that deter birds, food-gone-bad-kus. Plenty of bummers out there to be sung.

8 April 2011
found me a “lost” dog
double agent for the feds
turned in for tax fraud

down to the river
all my pockets full of stones
can’t drown in a drought

the ring of old age
vibrating swan song of ear
follicles dying

9 April 2011
scanning the menu
for fiber in a diner
might as well stay home

bus stop in the rain
no hat, umbrella, shelter
discontinued line

you don’t miss water
‘til your well is high and dry
and you’ve tumbled in

10 April 2011
all the best blues names
have been taken ~ me they call
saturated fats

black cat crossed my path
seven more years bad luck each day
wanted a tabby

when kissing the bride
is it too late to ask her
for a second chance?

11 April 2011
mailbox explodes
literary foliage
rejected again

airline lost my bags
hotel full, rental car dead
longing for next trip

helpful taxicab
takes me from point a to b
via c through z

12 April 2011
(birds and their deterrents)
willowy scarecrow
legs jitterbugging the breeze
amuses the crows

snake in the garden
birds peck furiously at
plastic gemstone eyes

motionless owl
peeling coarse paint chip feathers
among the pigeons

13 April 2011
(occupational blues)
those crimson blues
doing time in cubicles
death by paper cuts

the retail truth:
customers are always wrong
just don’t tell them that

piecemeal seamstress
pushing paychecks by the inch
never fast enough

14 April 2011
(meals gone awry)
toaster set to dark
my last piece of bread charred black
sadness for breakfast

dining al fresco
enjoying a warm spring day
squirrels stole my lunch

at the restaurant
the maitre d’ hotel smirks:
“just you this evening?”

Friday means Poetry Friday, and April means National Poetry Month, and there’s a lot out there, for better or verse.  Check out the roundup this week over at Random Noodling.  Get your poetry on!  And if you’d rather see my twitku fresh out of the oven follow me, @delzey, on Twitter.  I promise, no salesman will come to your door if you follow.

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It has been said that the fates reward and protect the feeble-minded. This is how one such couple found their fortune.

The Man (a) tells his wife as he is about to work in the fields (b) to “stick some meat in the cabbage, and when it is done, bring it to me.”  So the Woman (c) takes raw meat (d) and carries it to the garden where the cabbage grows (e) and sticks the meat in it.  The dog (f) sniffs out the meat and attempts to carry it off (g) but is caught by the Woman and brought to the cellar (h) where he is tied up to the tap of a beer keg (i) which he promptly yanks out, flooding the cellar with beer (j).  After drying up the beer with all the flour (k) the Woman removes the door to her cottage (l) to prevent people from breaking in and brings it along with some vinegar and dried pears (m) to the field for lunch where her husband can’t tell the difference between that and meat-filled cabbage.

Just as they were about to eat a dozen robbers (n) emerge from the forest (o) with the intention of counting and dividing their gold (p).  The Man and Woman quickly hide in a tree (q) with their lunch and their door hoping not to be seen.  As one of the robbers sneezes (r) the Man and Woman accidentally drop their door on his head (s) killing him instantly.  The robbers, fearing the tree haunted, run back into the forest (t) leaving behind their gold.  The Man and Woman then load the gold on their door (u) and carry it home which has been taken over by bears (v).  “No matter,” says the man, “We shall buy a new home (w) in the village.”

Word about the Man and Woman spreads and many people of their village (x) venture into the forest to find their own fortunes, but none ever return as they are killed (y) by the angry robbers who live there.

As always, the Man and Woman live happily for the rest of their days, with servants (z) to bring them vinegar and dried pears whenever they pleased.  And given what happened to the others in the village, perhaps they weren’t so feeble-minded after all.

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Yesterday I had a pair of separate incidents that jumbled together in my head and caused me great distress.  Or perhaps it was getting a crown fitted in my mouth.  Whatever the cause of the distress, the end result was me pondering the question/problem/future of books in the digital age.

It started as I was collecting some thoughts for a review of Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman for the blog Guys Lit Wire.  One of the a-ha moments of the book I remembered from my original reading many moons ago was how technology took a huge leap at the end of the 19th century that fundamentally changed how we communicate.

Essentially, one day we were taking time to carefully craft letters by hand, taking them to the post office, having them transported by train, and then hand delivered to our intendeds – a process that, depending on your service area and how quickly you wrote, moved at the speed of trains, roughly 35 mph.  So three to five days figure for a letter.  Then this Morse guy figures out a way to harness electricity and develops a coded language that would allow you to send messages down a wire within minutes to that same recipient.

Think about how monumental a jump that was, to go from a three-day letter to a three-minute telegram.

Letters, of course, persisted through the dawning of the telephone.  Electricity became not only lights but radios and television.  Satellites made it possible for us to witness live events half way around the world with only a three-second delay.  When we talk about a shrinking world, this is what we’re talking about, closing the time-space gap between our abilities to send information to other people on the planet.

So what’s with books?

Here we have a technology that’s been with us for hundreds or thousands of years (depending on how you want to define books) that has, for the last several hundred years, remained relatively unchanged. 20th century technology allowed us to shorten the time it takes to print, bind, and transport books but in the end you still had an end product that was both easily recognizable if it could be sent back in time 350 years and in a format that required no introduction.

Here’s were the second part of my ponderable entered.

I recently received as a gift a new iPad. I hadn’t been looking for or expecting it, but I like playing with new toys like many people.  One of the things I wanted to check out was how it worked as an ereader, but I wasn’t so dedicated to the idea as to actually purchase a book for the test run.  My thinking was that I didn’t want to come away with a sour impression of a book based on my interaction with its format. I had originally considered downloading a classic from public domain site like Project Guttenberg but I couldn’t settle on anything. Then I remembered that my local library does digital lending and that to me seemed like a better test. I eventually found a title I wanted to check out, something I knew nothing about and had no expectations of, and downloaded it to my tablet for reading.

Eventually.

Because first I had to download an app that supported an Adobe reader format. Then I had to enter the library’s digital database to see what was available for download. Then I had to save it to my cart. Then I had to download it to my tablet.  Then once on the tablet I had a brief wait while it loaded.  And once there I was able to finally have the ebook experience.

In time, I imagine the process of finding and up- and downloading books will become second-hand to me, but what caught me off guard was how my expectations of technology made me so impatient with the process in so short a period of time. The book experience itself is relatively pleasant so far, it’s the acquisition that seems like a hitch to me. So if I wanted to purchase this book in a digital format – say I wanted to spend more time than the limited 14 day download period or it was a reference book I wanted to be able to refer to – I would then have to locate the book for sale in an edition that worked with my device, or software, and go through the entire download process again.  If I had made notes for myself would the pagenation be identical that I could relocate the passages on my new copy for insertion into the text?  And what if it were a nonfiction title and the information within the book had changed recently (top nuclear accidents, number of planets in the solar system)? If all else but a few new paragraphs of information had changed, would it make sense in this digital age that I would have to pay for and download and entirely new edition of the book?

And so it was that while I previously never had an qualms about out-of-date texts and transferring notes between editions I suddenly find myself feeling like the current situation with digital publishing is off on the wrong foot.  The technology should enhance the experience, somehow transcend the problems of its analog chains. Where it was expensive to print new editions of books and get that information out to readers the flash if digital media should make upgrades and updates a built-in feature. To read a book from a digital lending library it shouldn’t take third and fourth party interfaces to make it accessible.

Basically, ebooks shouldn’t try to be books, they should be apps.

Let’s not call them books or apps at all, let’s give them a new name: Sheaves ©, and in the singular, a Sheaf ©.  Each sheaf should strive for something more than simply words on a digital page like a book.  The sheaf is a connection between a reader and a writer.  Sheaves can have whatever features a reader might want; a quarterly update from the author about future titles; hyperlinks within the text to web pages that provide background or supplemental materials to enhance the reading experience; what if a sheaf could include a soundtrack, an ambient background track that synced up with specific chapters or was comprised of a (copyright cleared, obviously) playlist that was assembled by the author?

Because, you see, the genie is out of the bottle. Books are now like another developing technology of the early 20th century, movies.  Originally there was a novelty phase where the idea of seeing photos coming to life was enough to satisfy. Then movie evolved to include overly dramatic pantomime to compensate for the lack of sound. Sound came along and brought theatrical dialog. Color came and dialog became more natural. What began as an old alignment of photography and serial printmaking evolved into a storytelling medium that took technology and ran with it. They weren’t content to present lantern slide shows with musical or narrative accompaniment, and books shouldn’t rely simply on the typographical representation of another era to carry the weight.

There will always be books – bound sheets of paper that contain stories and images to fire the imagination – just as we still have theatre in the age of instant-watch Hollywood movies on our LCD screen, and musicians playing and singing acoustically in a world of digital production, just as there are artists who still use canvas and paint where others have used machines and technology to create representational images. I just think that which we call a book is a square peg currently being fitted into a round technological hole.

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Turns out that using the blues as a theme for writing haiku is kind of hard.  The haiku format being all about close observation of small things, the blues tend to muck that up with their broad base of misery and pain. I tried a couple things this week while tweeting blues haikus, some traditional blues themes (my woman done left me, met the devil at the crossroads) and some more modern blues subjects (taxes, lost keys, ketchup), all of them a little funky for the process.

While working out three haiku a day I was also going to try and include at least one Burma-Shave poem, but that muse is on vacation.  There are a couple of attempts here, but only a couple.  The hardest part seemed to be coming up with themes, which was odd because I never found myself wanting in the haiku department. And when I tried to take a haiku and turn it into a Burma-Shave poem that was even worse.

So here’s what I’ve written and tweeted since last Friday:

2 April 2011
woke up this morning
sun too bright, the house too cold
day’s young, feeling old

bad breath cottonmouth
stomach kicked in my a mule
sour party beer

silvery fishes
tumbling into darkness
keys in the river

Public statement
Artist fined
That’s where police
Draw the line

3 April 2011
Hawaii had its
Sugar reign
Better known as
Raising cane

down at the dog park:
smirking ~ someone stepped in “it”
look before you laugh.

full ketchup bottle
smack it hard until it… oops
better get a spoon

innocent night sky
echoes with violent curses
locked out of the house

4 April 2011
down at the crossroads
to trade my soul for used blues
devil says “no deal”

come through the front door
thought I heard the back door slam…
wrong house, sorry, ma’am

car was repossessed
lost my job, the rent is due
park benches are free

5 April 2011
nighttime stumbles in
blind and drunken, while Day breaks
sledgehammers on glass

vampyre bitten
instantly spits out my blood
too bitter to drink

sleeping on the job
boss: “it’s written on your face”
keyboard imprinted

6 April 2011
railroad yard blues
spent the night getting chased out
hobo rejected

floating in my soup
not a fly: no legs, no wings~
bellybutton lint

lost, late coming home
my baby thought I left her
she burned the house down

7 April 2011
(I took a break from the blues on Buddha’s birthday)
honoring Buddha
remember to pour sweet tea
on his head, not yours

when you look ahead
see the Buddha on the road?
probably squirrels

Buddha’s old
perfect birthday gift?
that depends

heavenly dragons
shower all things with sweet rain
every flower blooms

mind empty, heart full
meditating or in love
heart full, mind empty

What I ended up liking about the blues haikus is that they had sort of a joke quality to them, an expectation and a punchline that replaced the usual description/observation format.  It was also fun to play against the conventions of traditional blues in thinking up what would make for modern blues subjects. Heartbreak and poor, yeah yeah, but what about getting caught sleeping on the job or waiting for a bus that never comes?

So that’s one week down.  Three more to go. That’s at least 60 more blues haikus. If you want to follow along on Twitter I’m @delzey. And if you’d rather wait and get them all in a bunch, I’ll be rounding them up here once a week.

It’s the second Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month, and there’s a full-frontal assault of poetry all over the place! Madigan McGillicuddy is hosting the round-up this week over at her place.  “Go forth under the open sky, and list to Nature’s teachings!”

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When he was born Little Kurt was like most other children.  He giggled and fussed and cooed like all babes do, cried when he was hungry and slept often as most babes do. But he grew very quickly and within a year he was already three feet tall and talking.  By his second year he was almost four feet tall and as strong as a man.  And by his third year he was over five feet tall and had an appetite so large that his parents could no longer afford to feed him.  The town was sympathetic and offered to help but they quickly realized that they had a Bingeling on their hands.

Some say that Bingelings were demons sent to earth to destroy everything they could touch, others claimed Bingelings were the products of indulgent parents who would deny their children nothing, but whatever the cause a Bingeling was a force to be reckoned with before it could get out of hand.

First the townspeople decided to not feed Little Kurt.  Surely the Bingeling’s size was the result of its voracious appetite.  But after one day of not feeding Little Kurt he had grown an additional eight inches, and many feared the worst if they continued down that path.  So they set up a dining table in the town center and had people constantly feeding the Bingeling in shifts while they sent away for help.

A man from another village was found and he relayed what had happened when they found themselves with a Bingeling.

“Our Bingeling grew to nearly ten feet before we decided that the best thing to do was to kill it.  We circled around and came at it with shovels and axes for all directions but many of our blades barely scratched the surface of the Bingeling. In anger, our Bingeling swatted down many good, strong men until we finally decided to build a trebuchet that sent sacks of salt and lye into his eyes to blind him. Once blinded, we were able to surround the Bingeling and set fire to it.  The fire burned for nearly three moons and left a stench so horrible in the earth that we had to relocate our entire town several miles up river.  Trust me, in another year it may be too late for you to do anything to get rid of your Bingeling, because at some point the Bingeling won’t be satisfied until he starts eating humans.”

The townspeople looked at Little Kurt in horror. Despite his size, they couldn’t imagine killing him, or setting fire to him, or having to move their town. They also didn’t relish the idea of becoming a part of his diet.

The next day a woman was found from a village even further away.  He told the people his tale of the Bingeling.

“Our Bingeling was kept secret from us by its parents.  They lived further out on the edge of the village and were better able to keep it a secret.  They didn’t see anything wrong with their child – they said God had blessed them with an “abundance of love” – but they were forced to steal entire flocks of sheep and goats to keep up with its appetites.  When the village finally found out the Bingeling was easily fifteen feet tall and just as wide, wallowing in its own filth like a hog.  It was the smell that caused us to search for its source. Since its parents were uncooperative and refused to let us near the Bingeling we were forced to take unusual measures. We noted the Bingeling was in a ravine so we built a culvert and diverted a river into the ravine during a storm.  The water built up like a dam behind the Bingeling then eventually washed it further down into the valley where it tumbled into a lake and drowned.  The lake became putrid within a week and turned the entire area into a foul-smelling marshland with noxious gasses. Our village moved to avoid the smell, though the Bingeling’s parents refused to leave their home and continued to mourn the loss of their child.”

The townspeople looked again at Little Kurt, happily eating his second side of beef for the day and rethought their opinions about killing a child.  After some serious discussions they set a proposal before Little Kurt’s parents and were given permission to proceed.

Though he would constantly eat, Little Kurt was still quite healthy and active, and so the people of his town decided to teach him a game. Every few hours they would stop feeding Little Kurt and wait for him to cry for food.  Then they would say “Little Kurt, we have prepare another meal for you!  Can you smell it?  Can you find where it is?”  And Little Kurt would jump up from his empty table and go search out the next.  In this way the people of the town kept setting up tables further and further away, out beyond their forest and up the side of a mountain, until finally they set a massive table of food suspended by ropes over the caldera of a dormant volcano.  At first Little Kurt didn’t know what to do, but soon figured out how to hang from the ropes and hand-over-hand toward the food.  As he neared the table a gun was fired, signaling the townspeople on either end to cut to ropes and send Little Kurt hurling nearly a mile down to his death on the rocky floor of the caldera.

And that would have been the end of it, but as the townspeople made their way home the earth shook from a mighty quake, and suddenly the volcano burst with poisonous gasses and hot magma.  Within minutes Little Kurt’s town and all the people in it were obliterated from the earth, all except Little Kurt’s parents who left the town after being told the plans for their Bingeling child. They were the ones who told me this tale, and who wander the world and offer this warning to others, that if your aren’t careful, it only takes one child to raze a village.

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