February 24, 2017

Sibelius Kullervo Kortekangas Migrations: Minnesota Orchestra


I'm thrilled that Kortekangas set my poems into the music.  "Migrations" is well matched to the driving and intense Kullervo, composed by Sibelius.  The Minnesota Orchestra performance, conducted by Osmo Vänskä, recorded here on CD, is stunning and beautiful.

Here are awesome reviews:
The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/feb/23/sibelius-kullervo-etc-kortekangas-migrations-cd-review-vanska-minnesota-orchestra?CMP=share_btn_link

Helsinki Sanomat:
http://www.hs.fi/kulttuuri/levyarvostelu/art-2000005097084.html

San Francisco Chronicle:  http://www.sfchronicle.com/music/article/Sibelius-Kullervo-review-10934690.php

Klassik Heute (Germany)
http://www.klassik-heute.com/4daction/www_medien_einzeln?id=22157

Pizzicato: Remy Frank's Journal about Classical Music (Luxemburg)
http://www.pizzicato.lu/finnisches-vom-feinsten/

Infodad.com / TransCentury Communications
http://transcentury.blogspot.fi/2017/03/new-explorations.html

MusicWeb International (United Kingdom)
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2017/Mar/Sibelius_Kullervo_BIS9048.htm#

The CD is available anywhere, but also at: http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/buy/merchandise/cds-a-merchandise

To get the poems:  http://www.wildwoodriver.com/  The four poems are drawn from the books Cloud Birds and Echo and Lightning.

RondoClassic Magazine. (Helsinki, Finland):





December 26, 2016

Democracy: A Poem by Leonard Cohen




In these dark days Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman found comfort and hope in the work of Leonard Cohen. Together they recorded this new version of “Democracy.” Amanda composed the piano and Neil recorded the lyrics. Their friends David Mack and Olga Nunes created this stunning video to go with the song. 

December 13, 2016

One River Many Stories



Congratulations to Tom Isbell and the cast at UMD Theater.  "One River" has been chosen to travel to the KCACTF Region 5 Festival this January. This is a unique and moving performance that celebrates the history and people of the St. Louis River in Minnesota. And yes there are a few poems of mine in the script.

Also--if you missed your chance to see "One River" this fall, or would like to see it again--there will be having an encore performance at the Marshall Performing Arts Center at UMD in mid January before they leave for the festival. Hope to see you there!  

Kayla Peters playing the character of Sheila Packa in the play. 








November 26, 2016

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes believed in humanity and he had hope for a world in which people could sanely and with understanding live together. 

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967


Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.  Retrieved 25 Nov 2016.  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/langston-hughes

November 22, 2016

Wislawa Szymborska

If history has taught us anything, it is that civil liberty and democracy can change in one day. Polarizing political campaigns turn into extremism.  Slogans and rhetoric can mask many things. People need to stand with the victims of violence and prejudice. Everybody needs to be treated with dignity and respect. We must stand together for justice and peace. 

HATRED 
The Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape—
our century’s hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It’s not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it’s never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won’t sap its strength; it feeds it.

One religion or another –
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another –
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Hatred. Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy.

Oh these other feelings,
listless weaklings.
Since when does brotherhood
draw crowds?
Has compassion
ever finished first?
Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?
Only hatred has just what it takes.

Gifted, diligent, hard-working.
Need we mention all the songs it has composed?
All the pages it has added to our history books?
All the human carpets it has spread
over countless city squares and football fields?

Let’s face it:
it knows how to make beauty.
The splendid fire-glow in midnight skies.
Magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns.
You can’t deny the inspiring pathos of ruins
and a certain bawdy humor to be found
in the sturdy column jutting from their midst.

Hatred is a master of contrast-
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif – the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.

It’s always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it’s blind. Blind?
It has a sniper’s keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.

October 23, 2016

Meridel Le Sueur as a Poet

Nests
by Meridel Le Sueur

There is a nest in the marble pillar of your neck
Where young birds fly.
They beat their spiced wings within the blossom of your breasts,
Full flower.
The red and restless birds of your pulses are ravenous
And flutter sharply against my hands.

Night, and the fluttering of small birds
In the fragrant copse of your flesh, beloved,
Amidst white grasses, fragrant and sweet.
The silent singing of winged birds
Startled from their crimson marshes
By a too bold hunter;
Startled winging against your pale opal flesh, their sky,
Night and the throbbing of passing wings, multitudinous,in your body.

Your skin is tremulous with the amorous movement of caged birds.
One I captured, trembled in my hands,
And shut its green shadowed eyes to my flame lips,
My captive bird, beloved.

Your body is full of little birds moving in their sleep.
My lips find them in the intimate nest of your neck,
My lips startle them into flight beneath the marble arch of your arm.
Your body is full of little birds singing as they fly.


Poetry Magazine
May 1924
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=16366

September 3, 2016

Forms

As a poet, I obsess over forms and patterns of language. Caroline Levine has a fascinating new book that examines form in the fields of literature, cultural studies, and politics. She eliminates boundaries at the same time that she explores a myriad of forms, and she offers a fresh way for writers to consider their material.

She is a person sensitive to pattern, and she begans this book with a reference to Jane Eyre.  In the description of Lowood, the school that Jane Eyre attends, Levine notices the organization of the day: girls lining up in two straight lines, ascending stairs to a room where in fours, the girls assemble in circles around the tables.   She explores these recurring and interesting shapes in Brontë's writing for its aesthetic and social implications.  She borrows a concept from design theory, the affordances of form.  She says:

"Broadening our definition of form to include social arrangements has, as we will see, immediate methodological consequences. The traditionally troubling gap between the form of the literary text and its content and context dissolves. Formalist analysis turns out to be valuable to understanding sociopolitical institutions as it is to reading literature. Forms are at work everywhere," Levine writes in the introduction. She continues with the analysis:

Over many centuries, form has gestured to a series of conflicting, sometimes even paradoxical meanings. Form can mean an immaterial idea, as in Plato, or material shape, as in Aristotle. It can indicate essence, but it can also mean superficial trappings, such as conventions—mere forms. Form can be generalizing and abstract, or highly particular (as in the form this thing is what makes it what it is, and if it were reorganized it would not be same thing). Form can be cast as historical, emerging out of the particular cultural or political circumstances, or it can be understood as ahistorical, transcending the specificities of history. In disciplinary terms, form can point us to visual art, music, and literature, but it belongs equally to philosophy, law, mathematics, military science, and crystallography.  Even within literary studies, the vocabulary of formalism has always been a surprising kind of hodgepodge, put together from rhetoric, prosody, genre theory, structural anthropology, philology, linguistics, folklore, narratology, and semiotics.  
…forms are the stuff of politics….the work of political power often involves enforcing restrictive containers and boundaries—such as nation-states, bounded subjects, and domestic walls. But politics is not only about imposing order on space. It also involves organizing time: determining prison and presidential terms, naturalization periods, and the legal age for voting, military service, and sexual consent. Crucially, politics also means enforcing hierarchies of high and low, white and black, masculine and feminine, straight and queer, have and have-not. In other words, politics involves activities of ordering, patterning, and shaping. And if the political is a matter of imposing and enforcing boundaries, temporal patterns, and hierarchies on experience, then there is no politics without form.  
For a long time, I've called poetry a pattern language, and I'm delighted to bring this method of seeing patterns to a broad spectrum of perception, composition, human experience.

Levine, Caroline. Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network. Princetown University Press. c2015.

July 8, 2016

One River Many Stories




One River Many Stories was a community wide story-telling event for the Duluth and St Louis River region.  It was initiated by Paul Lundgren, John Hatcher and many others in the Journalism program at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and it included students, area poets and writers, journalists, photographers, artists, scientists and activists.  The One River Many Stories presented a series of events: an art show at the Duluth Art Institute featuring the photography of Ivy Vainio and area citizens and an interactive map, workshops for adults and kids, readings and a celebration.      

On April 27, 2016 creative writers came together to present their stories and poems at UWS. This was recorded by KUMD radio for future broadcast.   It's available to stream or to download the mp3 at http://www.wpr.org/shows/wpr-presents-one-river-many-stories

For more information about One River Many Stories, see http://onerivermn.com/

Thank you to Karen Sunderman and the camera crew at WDSE, John Hatcher, Jennifer Moore, and Judy Budreau and the many others involved in the project.   









The Poetic Process of Molly Peacock


Creative work develops in such interesting ways, in a combination of both freedom and constraint. In a Brief Guide to Oulipu on poets.org, the reader can consider ways to create literature using structural constraints:
Although poetry and mathematics often seem to be incompatible areas of study, the philosophy of OULIPO seeks to connect them. Founded in 1960 by French mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau, Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (OULIPO), or Workshop of Potential Literature, investigates the possibilities of verse written under a system of structural constraints. Lionnais and Quenuau believed in the profound potential of a poem produced within a framework or formula and that, if done in a playful posture, the outcomes could be endless.
Molly Peacock has spoken about the evolution of her book: Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions.  I find it fascinating to consider her project from its inception to the finished form.  In an interview by Laura Bast (https://maisonneuve.org/post/2015/01/22/mollypeacock/), Ms Peacock says:
A dear friend of mine, Phillis Levin, had given an assignment to her students to write a poem with an ambiguous pronoun, where you may not know who or what is behind this pronoun, and your reader certainly doesn’t. So I thought, I’m going to try this. When I started it, I was thinking about the idea that things only mean if they come into language. As a child I thought, “I have thoughts in my head. But I can’t put them into words.” I think that is the essence of poetry. A poem is about the things you don’t have words for.
In a blog post, Molly Peacock wrote
As a writer in my seventh decade, I’ve been shocked at the twists and turns my own creative life has taken. Alphabetique began as a book of poems, then transmogrified into twenty-six brief imaginary biographical tales of those shapes we call letters.
In another interview in Duende Literary Magazine, she says:
My poems reveal themselves both in an inchoate idea and in a design, or a form.  I seem to create a kind of mental playing ground before the poem can develop.  I didn’t know how “The Poet” would evolve, except that I had set myself the assignment of writing a prose poem for each letter of the alphabet, and for using as much alliteration as I could without destroying the sense of the story. “P” was for poet, but I didn’t want to convey that autobiographically. Instead, I wanted to make a statement about all of poetry, but to take the grandness of that enterprise and make it fun, too.  I thought of the first poems that influenced me as a girl:  poems by Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki.  Their haiku on the page had always looked to me like lily pads on a pond. The point of view of a young man in a far-off time seized me.  He wore a kimono.  (I always write poems early in the morning, often in my kimono-like bathrobe.) Could I actually write both the story and the poems of this young man?  By the pond, and with a desire to include that delicious word “petrichor,” the poem was launched.
Book reviewer Steven W. Beattie writes:
Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, and the other Oulipo writers, united by what Daniel Levin Becker calls “strict technical constraints or elaborate architectural designs,” have had a largely unacknowledged effect on Canadian writing in the 21st century. Their influence is most apparent in the realm of poetry: the key Canadian Oulipo text is Christian Bök’s Eunoia, which won the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize. Bök’s volume – a series of sections each employing only a single vowel – recalls Perec’s novel La Disparition, written entirely without the use of the letter “e.” 
The success of Bök’s experiment – Eunoia is one of the bestselling works of poetry this country has seen in the new millennium – has led to a proliferation of conceptual poetic works that employ Oulipo-like constraints, but this phenomenon has not really made inroads into prose. It is fitting, then, that Molly Peacock, a memoirist and author of the well-received 2010 non-fiction hybrid The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, is also a poet. Peacock’s latest work, the intriguing and beautifully produced Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions, while not as rigorously constrained as Bök, recalls the Oulipians in its premise and execution. 
As the title suggests, the book comprises 26 vignettes, each centred on a character named for a single letter in the alphabet.
While the Oulipo techniques might sound too artificial or esoteric, the work of Molly Peacock provides an example of its possibilities and pleasures.

To buy her books, visit her website: http://mollypeacock.org/

May 29, 2016

Experiments in Text


Lance Olsen writes experimental fiction.  He teaches this form at the University of Utah.  He's interested in theory and has explored in his writing hypermedia text.

Using structured collage, he creates books from assembled small text units that he calls narraticules. These small, finely written paragraphs of about five sentences are building blocks and can create interesting juxtapositions and provide polyphonic effects.

In Olsen's book,  Head in Flames, he uses these units to reflect shifts in voices, time periods, and consciousness.   Changes in font are used as well.  Readers can read the work in a linear fashion, or in a horizontal fashion (following the same font).

 He's interested in remixing other writers' texts in the form of quotation, saying he likes "how it cuts up and cuts off what it’s quoting, and by doing so releases new meanings and contexts that can and do surprise author as well as reader.

His work reminded me of the Piglia's: "Theses on the Short Story."  Piglia focused on story within a story in short forms.  Olsen works in long forms, and he brings together disparate elements in interesting ways.  In "A Long Note on New Narrative" by Robert Glück identifies and defines a method of literary practice termed New Narrative:
We were thinking about autobiography; by autobiography we meant daydreams, night dreams, the act of writing, the relationship to the reader, the meeting of flesh and culture, the self as collaboration, the self as disintegration, the gaps, inconsistencies and distortions, the enjambments of power, family, history and language.
The new hybrid writing, reflected recently in Claudia Rankine's Citizen and Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts, offers an engaging, elastic form that appeals to the way we think these days.  Some say we have a new brain, influenced by the internet and its devices.  All of us in the culture have attention that is further and further divided, and all of us must face complex and developing tensions and rifts in our growing population. This new narrative form provides ways to bring forward multiple threads: history, memoir, philosophy, art, and what-have-you.

In an interview published in Rain Taxi, Lance talks about his influences and forms.
Push yourself. Take chances. Remain curious. Remain crazy. Don’t do the same thing twice. Try to fail in interesting ways. Ask yourself: what forms and fictions comprise the realism our culture understands? Don’t rescript yesterday. Always write what you want to read, not what you think others do. Don’t compromise. Realize if you’ve got an answer, chances are you’re not a writer. Realize, along with John Cage, that you shouldn’t be frightened of new ideas; it’s the old ones that should scare you. Realize, along with T. S. Eliot, that only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. Reach out and support other writers. Realize you write because you don’t know what you think until you do, and then you know it even less. Understand this writing thing isn’t a competition; all of us can win all the time. Think of yourself as part of an oceanic conversation about life and narrative that extends across time and space, and ask yourself where your voice fits in, how you can help other voices be heard. And if you plan to write for fame or fortune, do something else immediately. Seriously.
As I explore my own presentation of new work, to be published in a transmedia form, I find his thoughts useful.  Instead of narraticule, I consider the building blocks to be stanzaic. I too want to avoid linear readings, preferring a multi-verse in which the reader chooses his or her own path.  I want to express the process of this new work.


For the interview with Lance Olsen: http://www.raintaxi.com/o-for-a-muse-of-fire-an-interview-with-lance-olsen/

For notes about multiverse stanzas in transmedia: http://sheilapacka.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-multiverse-stanzas-in-transmedia.html