A Poem: Why Watson?

A few weeks ago, when I first read that IBM was pitting its supercomputer, Watson, against contestants on Jeopardy, my first thought was: Why did you name it Watson and not Holmes? This poem sprung up from that thought, and I forgot about it until this week when Watson crushed the humans in the game.

You can listen to the podcast I had done, too, of the poem.

Why Watson

Why, I wonder, is it Watson
and not Holmes
who is the spirit of the answer machine —

Wasn’t it Holmes who uncovered the truths
by means of the scantest of clues?
Wasn’t it Holmes who silently let his gears churn
to make the most of improbable connections?
Wasn’t it Holmes who asked questions that seemed irrelevant
only to later turn on the pin of relevance?
Wasn’t it Holmes?

And where was Watson?
Acting as the foil, watching and wondering
and waiting to beat Truth over the head
with his London umbrella
in hopes of forcing a confession.

Or is it always Watson, and never Holmes,
who solved the murders,
and therefore it was I, the reader,
who was left in the dark,
never understanding the mystery to begin with?

Like many, I thought it funny that Ken Jennings used a Simpson’s quote for his final answer, and I also found his essay on Slate about his thoughts on matching wits against the machine, and why he realized that the humans were “the away team” in this experiment.

Peace (in the clues),
Kevin

Inside My Poetic Mind: A Reflection on Writing

Lost Piano Poem rough draft
Yesterday, I shared my digital poem entitled Lost Piano (Standing on the Shoulders of the Ocean) and today, I wanted to take a step back as a writer and mull over what I was trying to do with the poem, where the inspiration came from and why I scribbled out so many lines.

I am sharing the draft paper of the poem here as a sort of roadmap and instead of writing out my reflections this morning, I decided to sort of wing it and podcast my ideas as I remember them and as I am looking at the rough draft version.

Here is the final version of the poem

Lost Piano (Standing on the Shoulders of the Ocean)
listen to the podcast

I imagine the notes
riding the tides out each night
as the world slumbers —
silent fingers slipping over ivory puzzles,
piecing together stories in the moonlight.

What hint of a symphony draws the ears
of the stars above,
stretched to the point of falling from their perch
so that they may hear?
What rhythms push down into the depths
of the sand below,
burying treasure on whose map one
cannot ever hope to find?

Last night, as you and I stood on shore,
watching the waves lap at the pedals of that piano,
we listened for whatever might come.
We closed our eyes and held hands,
breathless in the moment of wonder.

We both swore we heard it.
How could we not?

You; the lost murmurs of your mother
sitting in her easy chair
overlooking the bay, unfolding stories
in her lap.
Me; the distorted refrain of my brother
on electric guitar,
amplified sounds behind doors locked
to keep us out.

These songs of our lives entwined, locked like fingers,
moving their way into a single melody
only we could hear, together,
as one.

We left it there — that song —
as others had done before us;
We left that song on the piano
standing on the shoulders of the ocean.
We left it there and walked away.

Peace (in the poet’s mind),
Kevin

Lost Piano: A Digital Poem

I don’t know if you saw the news reports of the high school student whose art project for his college applications was placing a piano on a high sand bar off Miami (his father helped). They didn’t tell anyone about it, so that caused quite a stir in the media. Photographs show this lonely piano sitting there, in the middle of the bay. And, in my imagination stirred, too, as I wondered about the beauty of a piano sitting atop the ocean (even at high tide, apparently).

Before I knew the real story, I wrote this poem, and then created it as a digital story poem. Tomorrow, I’ll share my writing process and the rough draft work I did on the poem. (lots of cross-offs, restarts, etc.)

Peace (on the shoulders of the world),
Kevin

Dear Reader, We Write the Book of our Times

The latest activity in the Edublog Teachers Challenge is to consider our blog readers (that would be you, by the way — we were talking about you. We only said nice things). It’s easy to get wrapped up in the writing sometimes and forget that there are readers out there (have I mentioned how nice you look in that shirt today?) who read and sometimes write (make sure you keep a smile on today, even if it gets rough) at our blogs. We’re partners, often — the writers and the readers (so thank you for visiting).

I woke this morning thinking of this idea of visitors here (again, that would be you and don’t worry, the dream was purely platonic) and how nice it really is that anyone spends time to write with me. I do write for myself — I would write even if this blog were unplugged — but there is something nice knowing that there are a handful of folks who wonder what I am up (sorry if my wandering brain gets you dizzy, reader. It’s the writer in me).

So, I wrote you a poem, dear reader. I wrote you a poem to thank you for being on this journey with me (here, have a cup of coffee and a muffin and stay for a minute) and to show some appreciation for your end of this conversation (sometimes, you are silent, thinking, but that’s OK — I’m like that too, sometimes, on my own journeys).

Thank you.

Writing the Book of Our Times
(listen to the podcast)

Imagine my surprise in finding you
arriving here, so unexpected,
bundled up against the flow of ceaseless information,
seeking a place to land as temporary shelter,
seeking out a conversation.

Come in, dear reader,
and share this fire with me;
I’m tossing sparks into the flames
in hopeful optimism that change is afoot
out there —
it’s something we can feel, if not always see,
and it needs to be named.
I need your help, so perhaps your arrival is fortuitous,
a breath of air on the embers.

Ignore the rapping on the basement door.
I’ve locked up the Spam King and all of his cronies
trying to sell me their trinkets and lies
while scraping my blog for ideas —
they are thieves and scoundrels,
and I am sorry
if you have ever found yourself in their company.
Dear reader, you deserve better.

Take off your coat and grab an idea;
Feed the fire with me,
and tell me a story of your journeys
as I will tell you of mine;
Combined, we’ll write the book of our times.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Boulder/Rock/Mountain: A Podcast Poem

During some freewriting with my students yesterday (I always write with them — do you?), I started to write this poem about a huge boulder that I remembered from my neighborhood. It was always this odd thing — something left over from the Ice Age that became an eerie play structure for us as kids. There was this deep crevasse or split in the rock, too, which was sort of scary because of the creatures and insects that lived in it. Of course, we couldn’t resist going down into it.

Boulder/Rock/Mountain

Who could say
where it had come from:
Perhaps it had been dragged there by ice
or regurgitated by roaming dinosaurs
or tossed aside by giants.
It was so much older than us
with stories all of its own
that it had no intention of ever revealing.

All we knew was:
it was there:
a boulder, a rock, a mountain
almost the size of a small house
plunked down into the grove of trees of our neighborhood
as unexpected as ice cream for breakfast.

With sharp footholds for ladders
and soft moss for seats
and a deep crevasse that had been cut by time itself
which seemed to descend down forever into darkness,
the Boulder/Rock/Mountain was our immovable treehouse
and dungeon,
luring us in with shadows and spiders and the unknown
down into a place that kept more secrets than I would ever know.

Thick maple and pine and oak trees loomed overhead,
casting a green curtain that kept us cool
in the insufferable months of August
and dry in the rainy Aprils
but never quite safe.

Awake before the others, always,
I’d climb the top of the sentry post
to scan the world
before heading down into the depths of the rips in the seam
toward the unknown,
plunging into my imagination for adventure.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Sunday Morning X by X Poetry

Each weekend, over at our iAnthology network for National Writing Project teachers, Bonnie or I or a volunteer post a writing prompt. It’s always sort of a challenge to find an idea that will engage as many of the close to 400 members as possible (on average, about two dozen folks will contribute to a prompt each week).

Yesterday morning, I was trying to come up with an idea when I got a link shared to me by Ira Socol, who was responding to my post about 25 word stories. I loved the poems he shared, which are structured poems. I didn’t see a name of the style, so I called it X by X (X being the number of lines and then X being the number of words per line).

The response has been pretty wonderful, and I have been using Cinch to record audio responses to everyone’s poems, giving some voice to my reactions to their writing. I love the simplicity of Cinch and how easy it is to embed into our site. And since it a site where geographic distance is everything, having a voice connected to your writing gives it a certain power of response, I think.

Here are the poems that I wrote and shared:

2×2

Coffee cup

filled, steaming

3×3

Dog walking, cold

fingers, cold toes,

silent morning frost

4×4

Four balls bouncing loudly

against the garage floors

echo like a shotgun —

can’t take it anymore

5×5

Lying here in the silence

of the night, no movement

in the house, save me,

and my own restless thoughts

6×6

The smiling face is silently mocking

the reason why I am crouched

on the floor, with my youngest.

I hold the plastic action hero

in the air, as if fighting,

when what I desire is peace.

7×7

“Seven” is what I said when asked

what is my favorite and magical number.

We sit, elbows touching, at the table

where his fingers hold a crumbling cookie

of fortune and mystical numbers of chance.

I expect the next question: “Why seven?

but it never comes; only quiet munching.

And here is my podcast, via Cinch:

Peace (in the Sunday poems),
Kevin
PS – If you are a Writing Project teacher looking for a supportive space for writing, drop me a comment and I will invite you into the iAnthology network.

More with Cinchcast: poetry podcasting

The more I use Cinchcast, the more I like it. This morning, I was writing some poems and thought I might try to podcast them. I was considering using my phone and Cinchcast, but then I remembered a red “record now” button at the site. I figured I would give it a try with my Blue Snowball microphone and it worked like a charm.

And I can embed the audio, or download it. And my Cinch site is connected to Twitter. And it’s free.

The poems I wrote:

Dog Days
Today, I figure, is the day
our dog is one day older than
our son.
Tomorrow, it will be
seven days.
Next week? A month or maybe two.
The wet muzzle and playful eyes gaze
up at me as if to say,
your time will come, too, old man …
as he grows older right before my eyes
and then bounds off into the woods.

I’m Not That Poet
I find it particularly difficult
to be one of those
poets
whose eyes see every … little …moment
like a time-lapse camera.
They stand in front of the larger-than-life mural
and notice the face of the one lonely
boy in the back or they pay attention to
the joyful girl with flowers on her dress.
Me?
I notice the tacks on the corners of the canvas and wonder
why the whole thing doesn’t just tumble right down to the Earth,
spilling out humanity on the ground.
I’d be ready to stuff that boy
and that girl
and all the rest of those people right into my pocket
so that I could carry them around with me
like history etched beneath our skin.
That’s the kind of poet
I am.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin


Once Upon a Midnight Dreary …

This is a great video interpretation of The Raven, which seems appropriate on this All Hallow’s Eve. It’s just a close-up shot of the reader. Nothing more ….:

Peace (in the night),
Kevin

Go Ahead: Write (National Day on Writing)

In honor of today’s celebration as the 2010 National Day on Writing, I decided to compose a poem.

Go Ahead: Write
(listen to the podcast)

Go ahead:
write,
on this Day of Writing;
Find a scrap of paper
and let your ideas take flight,
compose your life
or just jot down some simple thoughts
so that letters become words become sentences
become stories,
let your tales be heard admist the noise
of the world.
The pounding of the keyboard
or the scribbling of the pen, again and again,
is what keeps it alive for those behind you.
Hide your cache beneath a rock,
your flock will find you;
To whisper it, is to lose it;
To write it, is to use it,
so plant your flag into the ground,
gather ’round and go ahead:
Write.

What will you do today to celebrate writing?

Peace (in the words that flow),
Kevin