I am forever overlapping
you; your notes cascading
upon me; where shadows
loom, you hold the light
We meet in the middle,
at the bridge – at the break –
at the moment of unexpected
surrender to the moment of
story and song
I am melody: nothing, but
for the harmony that spans
its wings beneath
Note: this is a #smallpoem, written in the margins of a community feldgang, with this line as anchor:
“Making art, whether you do it solo or in a group, derives its patterns from everything around us, in an interdependent network.” — Stephen Nachmanovitch, The Art of Is
Others have been leaving poems, too, in the book we are reading together in NowComment, and finding them in the margins of the text is a beautiful moment — a dance along the contours of Nachmanovitch’s ideas, made visible for shared experiences.
Terry has us tunneling into the book The Art of Is by Stephen Nachmanovitch, a book with the tantalizing subtitle of “Improvising As A Way of Life” that caught my attention. The introduction has my attention, for sure, as Nachmanovitch weaves in the concepts of improvisation to all sorts of ideas — music, art, text, collaborations, etc. I like the scope of it.
We’re inside NowComment as an annotation space (contact Terry if you want an invite), I am working to make art out of my reading experience. The comic above is a play on Terry’s invitation on Twitter and Mastodon, about “nibbling” at the edges of the work.
I then made this comic on my first reading start, trying to reframe the cover of the book as a piece of art and trying to explore the strange wording of the book’s title.
I’ve also been writing poetry — some of it found right inside the book —
Who knows where this improv will lead … following threads takes faith that the unraveling leads to understanding.
I’ve been interested over the past few years to hear/read/follow bits and pieces of the academic research that my friend, Sarah Honeychurch, has been doing for her Phd work in Connected Learning and the CLMOOC community, and she has just shared some of her draft both at her blog and with an open invite to annotate her work via Hypothesis.
As she notes:
CLMOOC is a highly connected, non-hierarchical community of lifelong learners with an ethos of social justice who support each other and learn through creative play.
I made the word cloud above by gathering the words of her thesis statement. And played with the cloud, too.
I am intrigued by Sarah’s gathering of ideas around these elements of CLMOOC (Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration — which was envisioned and launched by the National Writing Project, and then supported by Educator Innovator, and which now continues to move along with members leading the way).
Lots of C’s!
But those phrases capture what I consider the spirit and essence, and underpinning, of the CLMOOC gathering spaces. See the new CLMOOC Planet for a gathering of RSS feeds to get a feel for the flow of CLMOOC. And look at the CLMOOC Muses page to see how many active people are still loosely connected with each other.
I’m diving into her post via community/collaborative annotations. See you there?
I am still tinkering around with different apps that animate words. This week, I explored the apps Plays, MOTT and then came back to Legend (re-found in the Google Play store after it disappeared but not found anymore in the Apple App store). None of these fit exactly what I am looking for but some come close enough to have fun with. Some of these examples here are riffs off others work (Terry, in particular) and others are just isolated word play or riffs off my own poems. I explored some others in an earlier post.
This is how it begins. An invitation to write. It knows my weakness.
“Your word will be instantly incorporated into an original two line poem generated by an algorithm trained on over 20 million words of 19th century poetry.”
Call me intrigued.
I arrive at this Google experiment (privacy hackles, dutifully raised) in poetry via Terry entitled Poem Portraits, and so I dig in, and learn that it is a collaborative poetry that is “ever evolving” as people add words and Google’s AI system culls through a myriad of texts it has in its data banks. They call it “An experiment at the boundaries of AI and human collaboration.”
As you add a word (my donated word: Harmonize), it uses your contribution to generate new lines of text, adding to an ever-expanding ongoing poem collaboration between human and machine. The AI asks for a selfie (but you don’t need to do one to add a word), and this is where I paused but then decided to do it and go further.
I had seen Terry’s, and then Sarah’s, and then Charlene’s, and then Sheri’s, and the fact is, I was still intrigued by the mix of poetry, text, words and collaboration.
The result is your word, and the words of your part of the poem, projected and mapped on your face, so that you become part of the poem. (Who knows where all those selfies go .. I suspect it becomes part of Google’s facial recognition data base. I’m sure I am already in there, but I would not likely bring students to this kind of poetry experiment).
I wanted to do more with the photo that gets generated. When you get to this step of your poem on your face, you can also read the larger, collaborative, AI-generated (with your word now added) unfolding on the page (You can access the scrolling poem without participating if you stop before adding a word).
So, I relocated my poem-selfie into the mobile app Fused, and began to layer in some visual static, working to deliberatively create a sort of fuzzy overlay of the selfie poem, as a means to represent some discomfort with how I willingly gave my image to Google.
Then, I wrote a short piece of music in Thumbjam, keeping the idea of my word — Harmonize — in mind, and working to layer three different musical sounds that work in harmony, and a bit of disharmony, too.
Finally, I took all of those pieces into iMovie and wove the media together, with a vocal reading of the text that filters across my face as part of my stanza of the poem.
The result of my playing is the video above … which starts as AI machine but ends with me, the pesky human, taking control of the image and poem again. (Or so I imagine).
Peace (in poems),
PS — this is how Terry played with his results, calling it his “ghost”
During April, every day, I woke up, not knowing what I was going to write. As part of my Random Access Poetry activity, my goal was to use a few different tools and sites to find an unexpected image that could spark a poem for the day. So, for 30 mornings, that’s what I would do — grab a cup of coffee, go to one of my image-finding spaces, land on an image and write small poems.
Here are some of the places I went to for random photo inspiration:
John Johnston’s Flickr Promptr (which he set up after I asked if anyone had anything that would generate a random image for poetry, and I so deeply appreciate that he took that idea and built something in Github)
John Johnston’s Flickr Stampr — which is as Creative Commons search engine
John Johnston’s (he’s great, right!) Flickr Blendr site, which randomly grabs two images and blends them together
Looking back over the 30 poems from April, there were some decent writing days, more than a few mediocre days and a couple of blah days with the poems. Some poems just worked and some poems just didn’t. Some poems seemed to write themselves — I would start and the lines would flow, and I’d try to figure out where the poem was going as it was being written. That’s an awfully strange and interesting experience. Other days, I’d get stuck mid-way into the piece, force myself to plow through and get to a good-enough stopping place.
What I found, as I was about to start writing each morning by calling up a photo with one of the tools above, is that I was searching for a hook in the visual image — something that grabbed my attention, a spark of a hidden story, or a character on the edges, or a small moment, or an emotion. I didn’t know what I was looking for as I was looking but I was fairly confident I might find it if I looked close enough with my writing eyes. Only once or twice did I not use the very first image I found and reset the process. Mostly, I let the random nature of my search become the inspiration, and just went with it.
The thing about poems is that they are designed to evoke, and photos can do the same. Evocation is also a tricky business for a writer in a rush — I wrote poems in a short span of time — and that’s why they don’t always work in this format. There was often a tension between what I saw, what I wrote, and what I aimed to accomplish. But I often left the writing with a phrase or line or stanza on the screen that I found worthy of the page, and for that, I was always inspired and confident as a poet.
If you bothered to read any of the poems, thank you. I hope you were writing, too.
I’m not sure I knew what I was getting into when I saw some artistic friends doing an activity called Illuminated Alphabet in early April — where many people were doing daily “letters” on a theme through art (I found out later that it was part of some contest) — and decided to give it a try.
Mostly, I jumped in out of curiosity, using the theme of music, and then kept going, and at some point, I was too far along with the letters not to keep going. And some CLMOOC friends — like Algot and Ron and others — were in the mix at times, too. So, there’s that kind of collaborative inspiration.
Some days were definitely challenging to keep the theme of music flowing into letters (and some letters require a leap of faith that they somehow directly connect to music .. so, you know, trust me on my thinking on those ones). But, I had fun with making the simply-designed art (I used the Paper App to make mine, often working rather quickly once I had an idea) and seeing them all in a single collage is pretty cool.
Also, during the month, keeping an eye on the IlluminatedAlphabet hashtag on Twitter was one of the neatest things I did as the flow of letters and art was just magical and inspirational, and the mix of amateur artists (me) and professional artists made for some intriguing artwork and letters.
Some words just drift
upon air, a cluster
from a translucent
flower seeking soil for
root, all with hope
that a new poem
might yet emerge
from where another
one idea seeds
(NOTE: OK, so the letters of “another” as the last line of the poem are meant to be scattered across the page but the blog keeps formatting it to flush left and I have given up making it work. Imagine those letters scattering to the wind …)
Peace (in the flowering),
PS — this is the last poem for this month’s poetry adventure I called Random Access Poetry, in which I used different paths to find images to inspire poems each morning. Thanks to Alan Levine, John Johnston, Bud Hunt, Sheri Edwards, Terry Elliott, Kim Douillard, Raymond Maxwell, Algot Runeman, Margaret Simon, and others for all of the places I have used to write poems and leave poems. Some of those pieces ended up here, as daily poems, and some just drifted into the comment bins of blog posts. Thanks, too, to all the photographers whose images helped inspire me. I tried to leave notes of appreciation where I could.
My friend, Bryan, asked at his blog about views on remix. Bryan fuses remix into his Remixer Machine site, which is fun to use (and something I support via Patron). The poem above came after thinking about how to respond to him. I guess maybe it resonated with folks, since it has nearly 8,000 views on Twitter, where I first shared it. Huh.
My latest rock and roll band is Sold Out! and we had our first gig the other weekend, rocking to raise money for an animal shelter. We had the nervous energy of a new band playing for a real audience for the first time after weeks of practice, but we ended up getting the whole place dancing and moving, and now we’re shifting ahead with booking other gigs this summer. Making music sure is something magical! (That’s me singing above and playing sax down below)