Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Ten Bulls of Zen Made Easy - My Poetry Bookshelf

Looking at the book shelf today, I am going to pull one from earlier in the Moon Traveller transit. Bob Watt has a special place in my space. When Robert Steffens read his poetry at a St Cathernines H.S. guest lecture, it connected what Dylan was doing with what we were living in (Wisconsin). And things began to open up from there. I'd say the poems are best when read, and they arent unlike a droll comedian's monologue. The important thing about his poetry was that, like a 3-chord Velvet Underground song, it beckoned you to try it yourself. He called himself of the school of Inferior Poetry. Kind of like Punk Rock. I did a write up on Bob's passing (we'd kind of gotten to know him enough to say 'hi' on the street later in Milwaukee, and Madison), and that tribute is located here. To emphasize the Everyman Angle of Watt - Jeff De Mark tells the story of working as a substitute English teacher at Eureka high in the early 90s the teacher once gave me a week to teach American modern poetry. Bringing in Elliot, Pound, Ginsberg, Williams but finding Bob Watt was one those students loved more than any other poet. They instantly got that "inferior poetry" thing...just write, even if it is terrible, at least it's YOUR thing and people can't take that away from you.



Steps above theater. 
     I watch people come up 
four or five at a time. 

Catch their eyes and give
     them a message. 
They seem High and Holy.

All seem open 
          to some new message 
     They are ready can -- we bring 
it on?

Now that they're ready 
     the message will come from 
their own happy centers, it has happened 
     before we even knew, it was happening. 
There it goes again just now. 
     It can happen anytime 
Blip, another 10,000 opportunities 
coming past all the time.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Heart of Chinese Poetry - My Poetry Bookshelf

It’s not possible to quickly and simply convey a whole culture’s poetry, and I wont try. But in China of yore, poetry was the premier art form, and it evolved into an incredible subtle opus, that was heavy on a note you might call the blues note. Here I look into this. 

The poem is Amusing Myself by Li Bai, who wrote during the Tang Dynasty -- in my youth was more often known as Li Po in the West. Let's say Tu Fu was the Willie Mays of the time and era - that would make Li Bai the Mickey Mantle. It’s a shapshot view of Chinese poetry, including drinking, concise strange scenes and the music of regret.

I was unaware of nightfall.
Fallen flowers
Filled my robe.

Drunk, I arose
And walked by the stream
In the moonlight.
The birds had all gone,
Men also were few.
                      -Li Bai

A review of a review of Chinese art show at the Met in 2007 drew some words that struck me on this topic of the Chinese poems, and I include them here.

As often as not the mood is regret. If only we could have the old ways back. Or, I miss my distant friends so much. Or, all things die and so must I.

May seem thin, but this mood carries through to many modern poems, whose authors found the Chinese note first, second or third hand. Shouldn't I add: I miss my friends.

The Heart of Chinese Poetry came to me as a Father’s Day gift from Jacob in 1996. It comes to clarify somewhat the Chinese modes of poetry. It is the most extraordinarily accessible and fantastically mechanical of any poetry text book. The author Greg Whincup (could hardly find a more apt name for the subject) breaks down each part of the poems here by a-English poem translation, b-Chinese word, c-Chinese writing character, and d-Literal word translation. Whincup then includes a brief and telling contextual graph on each poem and author. Like so more or less ...

a b-c-d

Saturday, February 02, 2019

The Weather Experiment: Book Review - Partly Sunny, Partly Cloudy

The Weather Experiment from petermoore on Vimeo.

There have been through the years a fair number of books that take some bit of arcana and build it into a novel history - often with a dollop of whimsy. They discuss the roots of Longitude, the historical search for ideal Actuarial Tables, surprising links between a Fish and commerce, and so on. To me, they tend to owe a debt to Connections, James Burke’s 1970s BBC/PBS series -- the one in which his deft narratives moved from the Jacquard Loom to the Hollerith Census machine to the 360 mainframe. Made you think about differently about the world in transit before you.

Connections’ descendant books include surprising cul de sacs, curious associations - like one might find talking with an odd but interesting academic sauced at a dreary cocktail party. While there is much to learn in The Weather Experiment by Peter Moore, it truly hails from the genre, and, tho it stands as a well-researched exposition on the journey to better understanding of climate and weather, I don’t think the Weather Experiment quite successfully joins Longitude, Cod or Against the Gods – much less Connections  -- in the pantheon of whimsically dolloped  historical accounts.

Perhaps the writer looked to go beyond the temptingly rote formula – or the topic didn’t lend itself in the exercise. I guess my gauge would have it that there were too many characters, subtopics and jumps in time in The Weather Experiment. Or, more to the point, that the connections between the characters was slight. These are such as Constable, Foster, Beaufort, Anderson, Reid, Franklin, Redfield and Viscount Merrill - but they seemed to be alone in the world, tho that may have been how communications in the world worked at the time, a point Moore makes regularly.

At times, one, Robert FitzRoy, the captain of Darwin’s fabled H.M.S. Beagle, seems to anchor the story. Like other men of the sea he intently studied the natural phenomena of currents, winds and precipitation; especially, he kept prodigious logs of barometric readings and carried on his studies diligently between voyages. Perhaps author’s difficulty stems from the fact that there really was no one “Father Of Weather Forecasting.”

There is much to learn about the days when the weather was an impossibly dark swirl, when its causes were mostly imagined, and when modern society took the path toward reasonable, repeatable predictions. But it is not an easy tramp. Its themes are good to keep in mind in our time, as AI wizards promise prediction beyond our dreams. Who can't say that their measurements of demographics and happenings are no less naive than those of sailors, shepherds or millers before the anemometer.

Certainly a book for weatherists and science history buffs. Beyond that, it's suitability wider audiences, is hard to predict. - Jack Vaughan

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