friday roundup: one more reason to love Google, the history of stanzas, and A Primer

Dante's tercets, forever unfolding

Dante’s tercets, forever unfolding

Reader, it’s cold in the Peninsula Town. Here in the Wee, Small House the furnace shakes rattles and rolls, and I keep nagging my kids to “put your jacket on, it’s freezing!” This is what I’ve become: a jacket-nagger when it’s (gasp!) 50 degrees. Yes, I’ve turned my back on 50-below as if I’d never experienced it. NorCal: where we use the term ‘winter’ loosely. And I’m loving it. Now, on to the roundup:

one more reason to love Google  Ah, Google. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. First there’s the way I can type in “blue screen of death” and — voila! — you bring up an image of the blue screen of death! Second, there’s… well, this could take way too long, so let’s skip straight to Google Translate. Did you know you can enter text in almost any language into Google Translate, and Google Translate will, well, translate it for you? Lately, I’ve been using Google Translate to sink down deep into language-play. I enter the text of a poem I’ve read and let Google translate it. Then I write a homophonic translation from the translated poem. You have to be willing to write ridiculous things like “A jar, a war, wrong house. The western guest. Undress for the tour. Unfasten it, damn it, a sick hay bin.” A sick hay bin? Groan. BUT what happens is, every now and then you get a really interesting and fresh phrase that just might lead you into a poem, or at least some scraps for a poem. And you have to be willing to work a bit from the translation to the sensical. Example: I went from,

of war your wife why an ocean rolling a brand getting my ear, to,

The door to your life is open, holding another, smaller door

It’s pretty cool if you’re willing to just play and see where the crazy-language will take you. One of my po-friends actually has a whole series of homophonic translations of another poet’s work. That takes a lot of revision. What I’m suggesting is just letting the language bubble up and see what happens.

the history of stanzas  Last weekend, I went to a poetry salon led by Genine Lentine. She played a clip from this video of Mark Doty. Amongst other things, he talked about stanza making and the history of stanzas. Here are my notes, jotted down quickly:

  • stanzas parcel the poem out in a way to help the reader; you’re asking the reader to pay attention for a long time
  • stanza-making as imposing one pattern upon another
  • couplet: meditation, movement through consciousness, “all that airiness”
  • tercet: forever Dante’s; unfolding, braiding down the page
  • quatrain: connote story, ballad; tells reader they’re being told a story

They start talking about stanzas at about the 12 minute, 20 second mark, if you want to hear it for yourself.

a primer  Reader, we’re not traveling for the holidays, so I’ve been feeling a little homesick for the Old Country, also known as Michigan. Here is one of my all-time favorite poems (you’ll have to scroll down to the second poem on the page). It’s called “A Primer” by Bob Hicok, and it’s about being from somewhere. And it’s a really funny poem, especially if you’re from Michigan, where, according to this poem, February is thirteen months long (it’s true, I swear it!) and the state motto is “What did we do?” Funny, and by the end, quite poignant. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Friday, Reader, Happy winter, or depending on where you live, “winter.” I hope you’re from somwhere, too. I hope you tell the world everything you can.

2 thoughts on “friday roundup: one more reason to love Google, the history of stanzas, and A Primer

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