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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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