Poetry Podcast: Unplug the Machine

There has been a series of interesting discussions going around the National Writing Project’s technology community about computer software that scores student writing. A simple request asking if anyone has any suggestions for automated grading software seems to have hit a bit of a nerve (with me, anyway) and a sharing of a poem by Kate Messner inspired me to write my own. (Hers is better, so you should read “Revolution for the Tested” by Messner).

Here is mine. You can also listen to the podcast version.

 

Unplug the Machine

Please let me know when I can meet the machine
with the big red pen of ones and zeroes
crossing out my words that don’t meet the rubric
embedded in its main frame.

I’ll be sure to reach out my hand
so I can understand how my ideas, my words, my expressions,
just don’t fit with the expectations of the programmer –
compiling code with no view of the world that I write about …

and I’ll not-so-gently reach behind them, and pull out the plug,
so that sparks will fly, crackling and popping like my prose,
as I wait for somebody, anybody, to walk through that door
and tell me just what I have done.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

 

A Podcast Protest Poem: We, the Pirates

Chart: “Congress, Can You Hear Us?”

 

 

We, The Pirates

The world reverted to blank canvas today;
I speak here only of the world
as it had become
so that we can wonder about the world
as it has been;

So, Pa, is this what you wanted
when you sought to close the gates
to keep the ragged troops at bay?
We stare into their eyes and see
… only us, staring back.

So, Pa, we are the pirates aboard this ship
and you seek to run the tanker aground
in order to save the gold doubloons in the captain’s pocket,
never understanding that the real treasure
is in the sails that catch the wind of the seas
that float us forward into the unknown worlds.

The world reverted to blank canvas today, Pa,
but we still pulled out our pens, and pencils, and crayons, and keyboards,
and envisioned the way the world might be
if the doors were left open to creativity and chance.

More about SOPA and the efforts to either stop or at least modify it is here.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Peace (in the protest),
Kevin

 

A Poetic Reaction to Occupy Wall Street

(I have been trying to make sense of the possibilities for OWS from afar, and this poem seeks to capture the idea of someone on the outside, looking in. — Kevin)

 

Searching for the Revolution

Here in the square
all voices melt into hand signals
while the echoes of ideas transmit
from one to another to another as shooting stars
in the night’s descending darkness ….

…. handpainted signs strewn like litter
amid tents propped up like homes;
Slashing slogans mixed with fire
amid crowds of youth, mind and bones.

I circle the park
in search of you, knowing
you must be in there somewhere
with eyes ablaze, furious protests
unfurling off your tongue
as you feed on the chill of the night air
and the possibility of revolution …

…. walking, walking, talking, walking
as if I were yet another of your distant planets
circling the sun.
I’m in the clutches of the pull of gravity
edging me ever inward
to a place I find no comfort ….

but I just might find you …


Listen to the Poem as podcast

How Publishing Slows Down Time

I was very happy to receive an email this week, informing me that a poem I had submitted for a local poetry anthology collection had been accepted. A contract/agreement was attached to the email and I dutifully signed it, and sent it back. I happened to glance at the date of publication for the poetry book: October 2012. That’s an entire year away.

The poem itself is a loving tribute to the old railroad bed in our neighborhood that has been given new life as a rail trail. I called it “Ghost Train” because I often imagine the trains running in the background of the woods as we ride our bikes or walk the trails during the warm seasons. The book is a collection of poems that capture the city where I live, a place I am proud of and love raising my family in. There’s no compensation for the poem, just a copy of the book.

What’s interesting is that when I tweeted that my poem would be published, a number of folks began asking me where they could find the link. They assumed it was online, and immediately accessible. It’s not.  We’re still a year away from the book form of the anthology. And it got me thinking through the day how odd it is for me to think about having to wait another year to see the poem in print, and even then, it may not be online anywhere. In fact, I submitted the poem many months ago and forgot all about it. I had to dig the poem back up and look through the lines again to remember what it is that I wrote, and remind myself why I liked it in the first place enough to submit it to the anthology.

I guess I have settled into the world of immediate publishing, like so many of us writers who use technology for publishing. I write it, I edit it, I publish it.  I get feedback. I revise, if necessary, and re-publish. I move on. This particularly anthology is forcing my poem to slow down. These conflicted feelings about the poem — about my inner push to publish against the need to accept the natural progress of book publishing — strikes me as a metaphor for the transition that the world of publishing is in these days (and why there are questions about how it will survive).

What will it be like to rediscover my poem in another year, when the writing of it will be almost two years in the past? Will I even like it anymore? I hope so.

Here are the first lines:

Ghosts of freight trains
ride these rails,
sound asleep beneath the bed
of fallen leaves.

The rest you will have to wait a year to read …

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin