Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the The Next Big Thing thing

First, I would like to thank Travis Macdonald for tagging me into The Next Big Thing, this literary blog-chain-gang. Hopefully this will provide a decent opportunity to get back to the business of poetry blogging, if poetry blogging is indeed still a know, because the economy. In any case, at least crime always pays.
To the self-interview questions!

What is/was the working title of the book?
I have currently have 3 manuscripts I’m working on simultaneously, so I will provide an answer for each one and number them to keep track.
  1. “How I Pitched the First Curve”
  2. “Arizona SB 1070: An Act”
  3. “Is Ryan Clark a Monster?”
Where did the idea come from for the book?
  1. I’m obsessed with puns, which led me in a quite organic way to experiment with turning everything into a pun via homophonic translation. Also being obsessed with baseball (Go Rangers!), I naturally equated homophonic translation with the curveball after re-watching the first episode of Ken Burns’ Baseball. Burns told of Candy Cummings, supposed inventor of the curveball, quoting Cummings’ description of his years spent experimenting with the curveball, trying every which way (stance, throwing motion, grip, etc.) to make the ball curve. Just as Cummings toiled away, trying to make that damned ball curve instead of just going straight all the time, I have spent years honing my skill with homophonic translation in order to effectively CURVE the language of a text, to read a text as something other, and to maintain a certain amount of control over meaning while doing so. Cummings’ description of his invention, told in his article for Baseball Magazine in the early 20th century entitled “How I Pitched the First Curve” serves as both metaphor for my own practice of homophonic translation and also the source text for the poetry which comprises the book. Along the way, I translate the article 9 different times to address 9 different social justice issues in the game of baseball--plus a special bonus (and highly personal) 7th-inning stretch!
  2. Arizona SB1070 makes me angry, and I want it to stop existing. Because I can’t quite erase it, I decided to instead make it say something else by performing homophonic translation upon the text in order to create a book of poetry that speaks against the hate and fear behind the bill.
  3. When I was a teenager (summer 2002, to be precise) I flew into a bit of a rage and (only sort of) hurt my little step-brother, with whom I was very close at the time. His mother, upon learning of this incident, claimed to not trust me around her kids anymore, which left me feeling quite a bit like some kind of monster. That got to me, and so I tried to off myself by parking my car in the garage and letting it run, as I had already been horribly depressed and suicidal for some time, and I had been fantasizing about replicating that scene from The Client for weeks. It didn’t work, obviously. A few months later I derived a mathematical equation that presumably was to predict the day that I would die, and it churned out December 10, 2011. As that date grew closer and closer, I decided to finally confront that traumatic experience in the garage through a poetry project. On that day, I had 25 of my friends and family send me text messages responding to the question: “Is Ryan Clark a monster?” I then used these as source texts for more homophonic translation, in which I aimed to confront and investigate the experience through poetry.
What genre does your book fall under?
  1. Poetic Sportsography
  2. Protestic Arizonoid Exploratorium
  3. Self-Loathing Self-Help for the Sole
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
  1. Candy Cummings played by Michael J. Fox; Fred Goldsmith played by Tom Hardy; John Rocker played by Yosemite Sam
  2. Jan Brewer played by a rusted 10-foot section of barbed wire fence
  3. Myself played by Cookie Monster after a nervous breakdown; My Car played by Steven Wright
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
  1. “Failure and response to failure is the backbone of baseball.” -Jason Parks, Twitter, 4/9/12
  2. Dey tuk er jehbs!
  3. I scraped all this black gunk from my lungs and made it into a heart and put glitter on it and now you can have it and put it on a bagel, because when you put anything on a bagel it completely ruins the bagel, and yet it somehow remains poetry...or does it...I dunno.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
  1. Early work on “First Curve” began in the spring of 2010, but that stuff was awful, and I started up again in the spring of 2011, and that stuff was marginally better but still pretty bad. It wasn’t until the summer of 2011 and then also the summer of 2012 that I began writing the stuff that would be considered a first draft of the book. But I initially conceived of the book back in the summer of 2008. It took so long for a couple of reasons: a) Homophonic translation takes a long damn time, as it’s basically working letter by letter and thinking about how to sound each letter through a variety of possibilities; and b) I had to hone my skills with HT to get to the point where I could feel a sufficient degree of control over the poetry. Honing my skills involved a great deal of practice, and a lot of studying phonetics and phonology.
  2. I began working on “SB 1070” in the fall of 2011 and then finished the first draft in the summer of 2012. Again, HT takes a long damn time, though luckily my skill with it really clicked shortly before I began work on this project.
  3. The first draft of “Is Ryan Clark a Monster?” was written more quickly than the other two projects--probably around 8-12 weeks during the spring of 2012.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
With all three of these projects, I was inspired to write them as a result of just existing in the world, whether that be existing in the world of baseball as a fan, or existing as an American citizen in the midst of xenophobia surrounding immigration, or just existing as a person with the ability (and inevitable tendency) to hurt those I love.
As for what inspired me to write these projects through homophonic translation, consider it my attempt to help reshape the world into a more loving, caring, and compassionate place. Particularly with “SB 1070”, I want to take this damaging, hurtful document and transform it into a document of care.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
  1. Josh Hamilton, Sammy Sosa, Pete Rose, Joe Jackson, and Roger Clemens can’t all be wrong, right? In any case, heroin! steroids! gambling! One stop shop!
  2. Each line is numbered corresponding to the numbered lined in the original Arizona SB 1070, and so one could read the two side by side and see how shit transformed into something slightly less like shit. Tell your friends and start a reading party!
  3. The book is split into each hour of the day of December 10, 2011. Will I survive to see 1am on December 11, 2011? Read to find out!
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will continue to apply finishing touches to each manuscript throughout the spring, and then I will begin sending them off to publishers this summer. So if there are any interested publishers out there...I really just hope you exist.
Who is(are) the NEXT Next Big Thing(s)?
Shailen Mishra:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Quick Take on "American" Poetry

As I am at present in quite the patriotic mood, I seek to pose a particular question: Is there any doubt that we, as truly American poets, should perpetually and relentlessly fight over each word we roll out from our language until the utmost havoc is wrecked upon the very concept of immutability? It seems that as our nation has been built upon a foundation of shifting mud, and that even a thing so concrete as our famed constitution is a battleground for meaning, we American poets can do no greater justice to our national heritage than to recognize this indisputable fact.

The pun, ladies and gentlemen, in its firmest principles, should be seen as a call to arms for American poets. It is a most active battleground that we all must step out onto. See the example of Mark Twain, whose very name executes the doubleness of language, and who many regard as the first uniquely American of all our literary masters.

If we look past the humorous nature of the pun, we can see the deeper roots of its possibilities, and then just perhaps we might recognize our national identity intertwined therein.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hello, my name is Mud.

Sorry for the rambling and redundant goings on of the previous post. I have a lot of academia juice backed up in my brain with no proper outlet for me to just let it spill. I am sorely in need of a PhD program. For the betterment of everyone, I think.

Stella is on MyDamnChannel now, by the way:
That damn channel has good funny stuff. A turd in a punch bowl, for instance. Quite disruptive.

a bit of everything

I started this blog after I became interested in the poetry blog craze spurred by Ron Silliman's blog. I read K. Silem Mohammad's blog Lime Tree and figured I may as well join the fray. But then the pet project got lost in the back of my mind, and now I suppose I'm digging a bit behind the hairline to try to resurrect it. I haven't been writing lately, so maybe this can be an outlet or a conduit or conductor (the train kind) of sorts.

Don't expect high discourse here. Do expect fake mustaches to be worn at times behind the scenes.

Like I said before I'm interested in puns. It's a major highway intersection of my primary interests: poetry, experimentation, comedy, constantly going above the heads of friends and acquaintances. I think you're either into puns or you aren't. I think something happens as you develop as a young child that puts you in this weird state of constant observation of interactions, specifically those that remind us of the self-other binary. Like how dough interacts with doe. It's the same, but it's different. I'm the same as you, but I'm different. You know? That's what the pun is for me. Punning is the lingual practice of othering.

But it's also at the heart of comedy. Look at my comedic heroes Stella, for example. They're three guys wearing suits that make them appear very professional, but their comedy is very childlike. They're known to burst into a long, slow "Yaaaaaaaaayyy!!" at even the smallest accomplishment. They wear fake mustaches and skunk tails. They are masters of disrupting even the simplest of expectations (using a realistic dildo as a source of heat, for example). Stella is a pun in the most concrete sense. They wouldn't exist without embodying the concept of punning, without disrupting expectations at every turn. I promise that if you start to take notice of every joke you encounter, a good percentage of them (if not all of them) will either involve punning directly or else disrupt expectation in the style of a pun.

It is, AND it isn't.

Experimental poetry is nothing if it is not disrupting traditional ideas of poetry. It is punning with a serious and very sharp blade. It's poetry, but it isn't. It's saying something, but it isn't. Let me throw out a definition of poetry to consider: Poetry is the art of saying "It is AND it isn't." Think of that old Gerard Manley Hopkins poem where the little girl Margaret sees the leaves falling and cries. "It is Margaret you mourn for." She's crying about the leaves, AND she isn't. She's crying for her own mortality, AND she isn't. If she was just crying for the leaves, it wouldn't be a very good poem at all. It would be melodrama, and melodrama is not poetry. Nor is it very interesting. Or funny (unless it's over the top or else disrupting some other expectation).

A panda bear is cute, AND it isn't. This is redundant, AND it isn't. You know?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Shut up, Beavis

I realize I still haven't written my Panda Bear Manifesto, but the following clip is an excellent starting point for this blog, as it disrupts expectation through absurdist practice.

Because that's what it's all about: disruption of expectation. Without it, the Panda Bear Poet is a Black Bear Poet at best, and a Sleepy Kitten Poet at worst. You can set up a serious expectation, like a black bear being dangerous, or like Bruce Andrews and his L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry. Likewise, you can set up the expectation of silliness, like a cute sleepy kitten being harmless, or like a bathroom limerick. This is the heart of the Panda Bear Manifesto, which continues the tradition of the pun, of the double-speak, of the Shakespearean fool. More will be said of this eventually, nuncle.

Watch the video below for a Panda Bear-esque response to the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets.

Beavis is an idiot jazzed on caffeine, but all the audience can see is a poet experimenting with sound in a very performative way. For all they know, he could be Bruce Andrews' bastard son. That serious expectation is set, unfortunately, due to the poetry reading atmosphere, and so all of a sudden Beavis becomes an avante-garde poet.

This is not pure Panda Bear, but it is Panda Bear-esque. The difference is that Beavis is not trying to disrupt any expectation--if anything, he is trying to meet it. You can see this especially when he his coffee buzz wears off and he consciously tries to create poetry. He has submitted to the expectation.

While there is no Panda Bear intention on Beavis's part, his avante-garde moments are quite successful in disrupting expectation through humor. This is the most obvious thing that could be said about the clip, so I won't linger on it, but his reading is funny. We know it's terrible, but these guys in the audience, blinded by expectation, assume the performance must be some work of genius. So while Beavis has unintentionally disrupted expectations of poetry for the VIEWER, these two guys are stuck in poetic expectation and are unable to recognize the idiocy at play. They are King Lear and Beavis is the Fool, though lacking the essential self-awareness and intention of the Panda Bear.

I want to close by saying that this is the greatest fictionalized portrayal of a poetry reading I have ever seen. Bravo, Mike Judge.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hello, and welcome to The Panda Bear Blog.

Let me first say that I am not a panda bear capable of typing human language into a blog format. Second, let me say I have a short-term memory problem and a poor attention span, neither of which have to do with the panda bear theme, but I feel I should be up front with you. Rather, I am a soon-to-be-former student of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. And several more potential prepositions.

This blog will address both poetics and pedagogy in the panda bear aesthetic. The Panda Bear Manifesto will be forthcoming in the near future, but for now consider this:

If a panda bear is angry, you must remember that it is a bear, and it will kill you. Do not mistake a cute face for a safe face. Neither should you mistake a playful approach to poetry or pedagogy for a lackadaisical attempt at humor.

It is a bear, and it will kill you.