Stories of the Poems: NWP

NWP logo

I enjoyed a series of video interviews that Tanya Baker, of National Writing Project, did with poets called Story of a Poem, digging deep into a single poem with the poets and then ending with an invitation to write. It was like Song Exploder (a favorite podcast of mine) but with poems. I took the poets up on the invitation to write.

Here are my poems:

Squiggles Break My Art

I
ve
kicked this po em
around somuch
the words have
fa…
…ll….
….en

a p
a r

t

Paintingwitheditmarks,
computer squiGGles
break my

(he)ART

Inspired by George Ella Lyon via https://youtu.be/0L8OKN2gmbE


Words Bring Us Through

Where are the notes
when you need them
the most

the tongues of strings
that have no name
but still, sing:

cancion, oran,
kanzunetta, laul,
canco, abesti
song

Rest, then, for when
you least expect it to:
Words bring us through

Inspired by Dan (Zev) Levinson prompt of language and his “Sundailed” via
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouEmIT8mbpw


Circular Revision

Awake
with the birds,
singing

No

Wake with
dawn breaking
to the songs
of birds singing

No

Be awake;
Listen!
Birds sing
this day into
being

No

The day
sings you
awake

Yes

Inspired by Shirley McPhillips and “Uncommon Education” via
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5qzl7v7Kzc


Every time you lose something — no matter what it is — you find something else…
– Patrice Vecchione

Lost/Found

Sometimes I wonder
which reader found it –
that small notebook
of scratched stories,
pieces remembered
only after discovering
an empty pocket
at the train terminal
where I remained,
suddenly reminded,
how ephemeral is ink,
and paper, merely
temporary

Inspired by “Finders Keepers” by Patrice Vecchione and the call to write about something that has been lost via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2fiEv_bKh8


With a Kiss From Hippocampus

Dipping fingers inside these fluid lands, inside what we don’t understand, so we go where the flow takes us – it breaks us – this tumbling turmoil off rock and ridge where such creatures live, where monsters like this exist – this fall, it breaks us – it takes us, it makes us humble again, for we might yet comprehend how every drop that comes apart from gravity’s kiss is also a drop where worlds resist the pull, such as this, this water, this rain, this, it takes us, this falling, this calling, it draws us to wonder, again, forward, towards bliss

Inspired by H.K. Hummel’s discussion of her prose poem: “The Fable of the Sailor and the Kraken” – and invitation to write about mythological creatures via https://youtu.be/G2MbsnA157E


Writing Rails of Ghost and Bone

That day we were walking
through wooded trails,
lost but never alone,
when we came upon
the remains of rails,
the tail end of the past
clutching the earth
with taut iron fist

how could we resist
the sudden urge to grip
the hammered steel,
slumbering on stone,
and wait on the day
for an oncoming rumble
of ghost and bone?

Inspired by t.l. sander’s poem “This” and the invocation to play with language and poetry via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSoAtx60v4E 

Peace (and poems),
Kevin

Random Access Poetry: Heading Off On An April Blog Hiatus

It’s always good to take a breather from the blog, particularly after a month of Slice of Life. So, for April, I am going to put this blog space on hold and focus on writing my morning poems.

Like last year, I am going to tap into random photographs and other discovered media to inspire some poetry each morning over a cup of coffee. That’s the ‘random access’ part of things, since I am doing no planning until I am ready to discover something and then write it.

This site is where I will be posting them poems, if you are interested.

Thanks for stopping by.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Confusing The Machines With My ChickenScratch Writing

HandScratchPoemDraft

I had taken and uploaded an image of a piece of paper where I had been handwriting a poem (read Little Geometry) through the day last week after watching a student catch a snowflake in her hand.

I’ll be the first to admit that my handwriting is nearly indecipherable to others (my 10 years as a newspaper reporter is to blame, I always say, although that work in making quick notes while interviewing people probably just exasperated a situation already in place). Sometimes, it’s indecipherable to me, particularly when writing songs.

Looking at the image, I saw that the Google Photos app, after I had taken my picture on my phone, was prompting me with the question of, Did I want it to grab the text from the image? (off the picture of the paper where I had been writing). Google Photos wanted to see what I had written. I had seen this option before for other images but always ignored it.

This time, I clicked forward.

First, it’s interesting (alarming? useful?) to think of technology taking words turned static in an image and reverse-engineering it back to text. Second, I was curious. What would this bit of AI make of my writing? Well, clearly, it couldn’t make heads or tails of it all.

Google IA Read My Poem (Good Luck With That)

Here’s Google’s translation (for those following long, these are words from the digital image from the words from the paper):

*
Time Crompt to tet
27 nguose rene lost dre Sigte Slet
Snowfla
fost from the group. •SshVodillingen har ontratis hand linmented Time – lost in in mont
Slow motion tabler
we nover
Herliften/on -Sketa do un lu e

Interesting …. nonsense. Good luck with that, Google. Which, you know, I’m pretty OK with. If my style of writing eludes the AI overlords, then maybe Poets will have a chance of resistance when the machines continue to take over the world.

Viva Poetic Revolution!

Peace (scratching it out),
Kevin

Dance Remixing a Collaborative Audio Poem

(Wendy used Google Docs to track when words were written, and where, for the poem. I did a slight remix on the image she shared, giving lateral movement to the tracking lines.)

When the audio quilt of our DS106 Collaborative Poem was released, Wendy and Sarah suggested that people consider a remix of the file. That’s like music to my ears. But what to do?

I decided to pull the audio file into a site called The Wub Machine, which is limited but does interesting things with audio files, in different musical genres. Sometimes, the original gets completely lost.

I tried it out, just out of curiosity, and then I worked through a few different genres — Trap, Dubstep, Country, Bass/Drums … hearing pieces of each track that sounded good as parts, but never great as a whole. What the heck — I opened up Audacity and began to remix the remix, weaving a few pieces and beats from different Wub-ed version tracks together, and that’s when it began to come together in an interesting way.

Weird, but interesting.

What holds it together is the voice at the start, and then its repeating refrain as well as the very last words one hears in the track. The shifts in beat to pull back at times, and leave some musical space for the chopped up but rhythmic vocals of the narration track to come to the surface became another kind of woven thread. I’m sure not every voice got into the mix, but it found its groove.

Be cool if this dub got transformed into a video remix … just saying: you’re invited.

Peace (tapping toes to it),
Kevin

Slice of Life/Day in a Sentence: In That Moment, A Poem

(The Slice of Life Challenge in March is hosted by Two Writing Teachers as way to encourage teachers-as-writers. You can join in, if you want. There is also a monthly call for Slices on Tuesdays. You can write then, too)

In the moment in which that solitary snowflake landed in her outstretched hand, as if she were capturing a bit of loosened magic from the sky, the start of a small poem, too, tumbled into my head.

HandScratchPoemDraft(A draft started in freewrite time with students, revised during the day)

Peace (falling),
Kevin

Little Geometry

One single silent
snowflake, loose
– a goose lost from
its group – slow-motion
tumbler

Its landing softened
by her outstretched
hand: melted time

then, her lips
on skin
on ice
on sand

We’re lost in a
moment we may
never understand

Walk My World Listening Mode: Collaborative DS106 Audio Quilt

DS106Poem

My CLMOOC friend, Wendy, released a mixed audio quilt of our collective voices reading a collective poem written for the DS106 community called 106 Lines of Thought. Walk My World’s recent Learning Event (6) is to pay attention to the sound of our world, to notice the details. The audio quilt is yet further iteration of the collaboration.

So I’m going to listen and jot notes and first impressions about the voices I am hearing on the audio file  …. While I may know and recognize some voices, I am not going to identify anyone until the very end … I have my headphones on and I am in deep listening space … writing what I hear …

  • First Voice —  first some claves then a short remix edit repeat of the 106 theme … clear and passionate, an introduction to listen … a personal voice … a collaborative reading … guitar bridge
  • Second Voice —  the alliterative patterns in the first stanza of the poem, read so lovely by this voice … the bird the stars the shimmer … the texture of her voice is a nice frequency for the words here
  • Third Voice — familiar voice familiar words … trying to find some emotional elements underneath the lines … the break through … the moment … false ending …. this is not the ending
  • Fourth Voice — music interlude … the accent draws me in, familiar and yet not heard by my ears on a daily basis kind of accent, there’s a sharpness to the dark wings .. higher higher higher, and the voice hit an emotional shift to bring us up, only to be reminded of the fate of Icarus
  • Fifth Voice — warmth here on the first phrase of words .. warming the bones .. looking down … and then, gratitude .. I am leaning into the sound of the warmth now … observing the moment …
  • Sixth Voice — nearly no gap space before this voice takes the poem from before like a baton pass and holds out for our hand, bringing us forward … sparking something deep inside … of you us we .. reaching out to others …
  • Seventh Voice — percussive interlude with claves … click click click – the musical thread, perhaps, or the ink of the poem to be read … I am sitting here at the table, sitting with this voice, so close now it seems in sound and so rich with ambience … listening, always listening … the small things … these give us all hope …
  • Eighth Voice — pace of narration quickens a bit,  captured like snapshots to browse through … I imagine us all doing that here, the collective urge to remember something important before we forget … wings rhythm beat ..
  • Ninth Voice — sounds of wings continue, a voice from a soft tunnel, perhaps, or a protective cave, or some chamber in dusk or dawn where the voice is a friendly token, something you find … tribes gathering …
  • Tenth Voice — textured range of voice, a small token or trinket reminding us of love and compassion, and I am visualizing the text here as I am hearing the text …
  • Eleventh Voice — the percussive ink returns, a rhythmic reminder of the threads that connect the voices together … the voice is close and yet also far, wrapped in a blanket of soft noise … the snowflakes drifting in the wind .. a poet’s voice, texture and tenor
  • Twelfth Voice — questioning? confidence. A voice of dust. A shape emerges from the poem here, the rhymes and voice of a storyteller … reminding the audience of something larger emerging from the small pieces of words
  • Thirteenth Voice — I imagine being in a listening hall, a poet sitting on the stage, their voice working working to pull me forward, to sit in the chair next to them, to listen and to wonder and to connect … to salvage hope … to listen for joy …
  • Fourteenth Voice — here, now, I am adrift in the small, nearly invisible intentional currents of a lake of words … the voice is the boat, or a stick, and we are ripples … the trees and soil and the rooting of stories  … and we are thinking feeling listening …
  • Fifteenth Voice — the voice is running, pausing, slowing, not stopping, moving, pushing, guiding, sanding down the edges of something to reveal what’s beneath … roots burrow down
  • Sixteenth Voice — spectrum of sound in this voice, past the places, the knowing understanding voice, the narrator who sees a way forward and invites us to join … like a blessing … returns
  • Seventeenth Voice — an echo of an earlier voice, returns … smoke and fire …. something flourishes, even in the quickened pace of the poem …
  • Eighteenth Voice — claves again, stitching .. clarity of frequency, this voice is next to us, sitting … right … there … and what will we make of this place? Indeed. What WILL we make of this place?
  • Nineteenth Voice — the voice is neither, neither hammer or chisel, but more a vocalized gift of each, and we are surfacing, are we not?
  • Twentieth Voice — forced slowdown for intentional alliteration, so effective so effective … my ears linger on the sound … on the tapestry … harmony …
  • Twenty-First Voice — lifting voice to the question mark of text … then, the slow roll down the incline … I imagine the paint stroke of a young artist, guided by instinct and making art …
  • Twenty-Second Voice — less question than a gathering … what will it be … these last lines … will we remember to breathe?
  • Music outro — guitar riff, hopeful sound

Peace (in listening mode),
Kevin

PS — from Wendy at Soundcloud

Readers in order or appearance (Twitter tag): Lisa (nobleknits2) Charlene (inspirepassion) Kevin (dogtrax) Ron (ronald_2008) Sue (sueinasp) Sarah (NomadWarMachine) Denise (mrsdkrebs) Will (willgourley) Ron S (ronsamul) Betsy (BetsyCallanan) Niall (niall_barr) Wendy (wentale) Catherine (catdartnall) Joe Murphy (joefromkenyon) AK (koutropoulos) Sheri (grammasheri) Irwin (irwindev) Jennifer (JenniferDenslow) Tania (taniatorikova) Irene (IrenequStewart) Susan (SSpellmanCann)

Mixed by Wendy Taleo. Music from Zapsplats.com
Original poem: wentalearn.blogspot.com/2021/02/ds106…-thought.html

Turning Collaborative Poem Into Song (but it ain’t no Shanty)

DS106Poem

The other day, I wrote about a collaborative poem that folks in #ds106, and #clmooc, and beyond had contributed to. With 106 lines in its construction, the poem has now become a place of possible remix. I had joked at one point at trying to write a Sea Shanty with some of the words (ie, TikTok trend) and yesterday morning, after watching a bunch of YouTube videos of the recent Shanty trend, I was pretty confident that I could remix something. Too confident. I tried to work out a song on my guitar and realized my Sea Shanty was becoming more folk-punk with a hint of Dylan.

Ah well. I abandoned that ship and sailed forward into this:

Here are my process notes for the writing and recording:

I dove into the 106 lines of poem and began to find and make couplets to the rhythm I had started on my guitar. Sometimes, I could use the phrasing outright. Other times, I had to do a little twisting and editing to make the words fit. If a line didn’t seem right, I moved on to the next.

I quickly realized again just how much interesting phrasing was going on in the collaboration, as people jumped into the original poem to add lines. I felt bad that I could not use something from every line but that was not going to happen or else it would be a 30 minute song. In the end, I had eight full stanzas of four lines of mostly rhymed couplets.

I realized a chorus and maybe a little musical bridge was needed to break up the song and to give it a hook. I tried a bunch of possibilities and ended up on a Believe/See theme (after abandoning a Breathe/See theme). The couplet lines in the chorus are mine, as they capture what the poem is all about, about remembering and connecting. The short musical interlude is a way to put space between the verse and the chorus.

You can read all the lyrics here.

For the music, I had first thought just to do a raw recording and be done with it. Guitar and voice. But then I had this bass line in my mind and I realized a simple drum pattern would propel it along, so I jumped into Garageband to lay down some tracks. From there, I moved the files to my computer, and recorded the guitar part.

The vocals, always my weakest point, came last and I nearly passed out, trying to fit all the words into the phrasing. At some points, you can hear me, gasping for breath on the phrasing. (or I hear me, anyway).  I gave it a real Dylan reading/singing feel. You may notice that the first section has two verses, and then the next two sections, three verses, before landing on the last section, with one verse. It makes the center of the song feel longer than I’d like but when I had it another way, it all felt too long. Combining verses condensed the song.

I tweaked some of the audio settings here and there, and added an underlying vocal track to the chorus to give it more life and played an organ keyboard down low in the mix, but mostly, the song was recorded straightforward. I think it’s OK.

Peace (listening in),
Kevin

Playing with Petals and Poems

I saw this article in the New York Times about a collaborative game you can play with poetry and a deck of flower-themed cards. They called it The Flower Petal Game, and I decided to give it a try on Twitter with the CLMOOC hashtag, and sure enough, I had some friends playing along.

And now Wendy, and maybe Sarah, are going to spur us into another round on Twitter. Use the #clmooc hashtag if you want to play along, too.

Peace (in poems),
Keivn

Walk My World: Going Off The Deep End

TriAnglPoem v3

The latest Learning Event for Walk My World is about the Shape of Stories, and for some reason, I went literal in my mind, thinking of the triangle as a metaphor for sharing a story. I’ve explored the elements of Shape of Story before so I figured I’d think about it at another, eh, angle and let a poem, eh, take shape.

So, I wrote a poem using some of the vocabulary of math and triangles, and then, because we had a snow day and I had some creative time, I took the poem in all different directions just to see how I might twist its shape a bit more. I wasn’t all that sure what I was after. A traditional shape poem didn’t seem to capture it for me but this isn’t too bad. With shape poems, sometimes, the shape takes over the poem, and the words let lost.

* Where this hypotenuse slides ever downward *

* into angled corners to form an imperfect *

* vertex of legged lines is where the *

* shape of story finds its point, *

* then rests itself upon *

* another teetering *

* edge of the *

*world*

The straightforward text formatting is OK. Just nothing special. But the focus is solely on words, not shape. Here, I was more concerned with where a line ended, and where one began, for flow. I was less worried about that with my shape poem experiments, where the overall shape dictated line breaks.

Where this hypotenuse
slides ever downward
into angled corners
to form an imperfect vertex
of legged lines is
where the shape of story
finds its point, then rests
itself upon another
teetering edge
of the world

The following collage shows three different visual takes as I tried to play with how to put the poem into a triangular shape or to least add words to visual imagery.

The top image (also at top of this post) became my favorite, although I wish I could have thought more deeply about the line length numbers to make them mean something. (they don’t). The bottom right was sort of interesting, with the edge of the world falling off the edge of the triangle (that one was done in MS Word). The bottom left was done with the Pablo site, but the image gets lost behind the words.

TriAnglPoem Collage

Then I found myself composing a soundtrack. My aim had been to use more “triangular” loop and sounds (which are often rough edged due to the jagged wavelengths) but in the end, those didn’t work for me as I had hoped because they were too fuzzy and too raw.

So I made some other loops and tracks, and added a literal musical triangle ringing at the start and at the end. I also ended up reading the poem forward (ending at an imaginary musical vertex point) with audio effects and then reversed some of the words to traverse the poem backwards along the line to an end.

In doing all of this, I pretty much ignored the activity instructions but that’s the best part of being an open participant in any network — I can go my own way and not stress about it.

Peace (angled for good),
Kevin