Commentaries - December 2012

The enrollment in this free, 10-week noncredit course on modern and contemporary American poetry was 42,523 in the fall of 2012, and 38,150 in the fall of 2013 and 38,800 in the fall of 2014, 34,000 in the fall of 2015, and 21,000 in the fall of 2016. Contributions to the discussion forums were read (well, viewed) 957,000 times in 2012. Video recordings of collaborative close readings of poems were viewed nearly a half million times in ten weeks (in '12, '13 and '14 each). The course site remains open for those enrolled for another nine months after each session ends in mid-November. Here are some links:

1. ModPo home page (you can enroll any time—it's free)
2. participant reviews (CourseTalk site)
3. Facebook group: ongoing, although the course has officially ended
4. a blog created by ModPo’ers: to continue post-ModPo
5. a blogroll of ModPo students’ post-ModPo blogs
6. introductory video
7. twitter feed, ModPoPenn (ongoing)
8. ModPo YouTube channel (includes recordings of live webcast sessions)
9. blog review/update
10. another blog review
11. another blog review
12. another review
13. another review
14. notes and vignettes
15. article by Jenni Baker
16. essay emphasizing access by Sara Dias of Capetown
17. article by Laura Cushing
18. NPR radio story partly featuring ModPo
19. Washington Post article on MOOCs, mentions ModPo
20. Robert Holland's non-final words on ModPo
21. Dorian Rolston’s essay in the Paris Review
22. 4-minute story aired on The Today Show
23. article about autistic student [Dan’s MOOC certificates]
24. Karin Wiberg's post-course assessment
25. Physicist/cancer patient takes ModPo (from a Coursera blog)
26. article in the Pennsylvania Gazette
27. review by Ian Chowcat
28. Magdalena Ball's podcast interview with 3 ModPo TAs
29. ModPo featured on “Future Tense” (Australian radio)
30. Filreis named Chronicle of Higher Education Top 10 Tech Innovators
31. Christian Science Monitor article about Taha Tariq, who found his university (Penn) through ModPo
32. Chronicle of Higher Education article on disability & MOOCs, refers to Daniel Bergmann of ModPo
33. Irish poet Christine Murray on ModPo (August 2014)
34. blog post on ModPo pedagogy (September 2014)
35. article in Al Jazeera America (September 2014)
35. blogpost says poetry is alive & well (September 2014)
36. Michal Clements presents on MOOCs & talks about ModPo [video; ModPo talk starts at 2:20]
37. video recording of Al Filreis' presentation at Columbia University (February 2014)
38. article about ModPo in The Atlantic (January 2015)
39. ModPo in Colombia (in Spanish) (December 2015)
40. blog entry by Renee Francoer (November 2016)

The poet, associated with the Brazillian concrete poetry movement, died today. He was 85 and lived in Sao Paulo. With Augusto and Haroldo de Campos he edited the magazne Noigandres e Invenção and they together wrote  Teoria da Poesia Concreta (1965).

Perhaps his most famcous concrete poem is this one, from 1957:

More of  his work at UBU.

Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari (center) and Augusto de Campos around 1950.

Moon, wrist in Iceland(ic)

Moon rising behind Mt. Esja, Iceland, 30 November 2012

On the eve of my first Að landa post, the sky over Reykjavík plunged from pink to indigo when the last light dwindled near 17:30. Jupiter rose in the north as I set up my tripod, charged my camera battery. Holding a wrist near eye level to block the city lights, I scanned the horizon above Mount Esja for hints of moonlight.

Nicolas Billon taught me the wrist trick during his first visit to Iceland in October. I’d been curious to meet him, a fellow Canadian who'd authored Iceland. And so we found ourselves at Stykkishólmur’s Library of Water. New moon. Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl and I had just finished a poetry performance; we gathered outside of the library to stare at northern lights, partly obscured by high, thin clouds. Nicolas raised his wrist and coaxed us to follow his lead. With the electric harbour lights of Stykkishólmur blocked, we could see the aurora. 

A few years ago, Eiríkur had written for The Reykjavík Grapevine about a poetry face-off involving the Icelandic word for moon. 

“The most famous duel of all times was that between Kolbeinn Jöklaskáld (a 17th century poet) and the Devil himself. Kolbeinn poetried the devil back to hell by rhyming the word ‘tungl’ (moon)— our ‘orange’ (unrhymable word)— with ‘ungl’ or ‘úln’: a variation on the word for ‘wrist’— this is all highly dubious, not really words and not even really rhymes, but the Devil always being one to promote the avant-garde, readily agreed and cleared off to hell.”

Eiríkur’s article was later published in a collection of his poetry essays called Booby, Be Quiet! (Poesia Helsinki, 2011).

Duel. Wrist. Moon.

With ‘moon’ and ‘wrist’ positioned near each other through Icelandic off-rhyme rhyme-off, I watched the full-to-waning frost moon surge over Mount Esja at 18:03— Reykjavík’s lights blocked by wrist. My camera set, I snapped the moon’s ascent as it lifted from mountaintop to slip behind low snow-cloud cover. Moon, wrist, frost, click. Tungl. Tunga, tongue: a tip.

Call for Papers
The 2nd Convention of Chinese/American Association for Poetry and Poetics & International Symposium on Modern and Contemporary Literatures in English
Wuhan, China   
June 8-9, 2013

In September 2011, the 1st Convention of Chinese/American Association for Poetry and Poetics (CAAP) took place successfully, attended by about 300 scholars and poets from the world. In order to further promote international exchange and scholarly prosperity, the University of Pennsylvania-based CAAP will collaborate with the School of Foreign Languages and School of Humanities of Central China Normal University, Foreign Literature Studies, and Forum for World Literature Studies in hosting “The 2nd CAAP Convention and International Symposium on Modern and Contemporary Literatures in English” (June 8-9, 2013) in Wuhan, China. Scholars and authors all over the world are welcome.

      Topics of the conference are:
1. Modern and Contemporary Literary Movements and Ethnic Literature;
2. Ethical Criticism of Modern and Contemporary Literature;
3. Ethnic Perspectives on Modern and Contemporary Literature;
4. Avant garde Poetic Practice and Theory in the Contemporary Context;
5. The Politics of Poetic Form;
6. Translation, Diffusion and Teaching of Modern and Contemporary Literature.

 The abstract of [or and] the conference paper is expected to be submitted by March 5, 2013 to the conference organizing committee at The official invitation will be sent by mail or e-mail within one week after the reception of the above-mentioned document[s].

 For more information, please contact Prof. Lianggong Luo and Ms Qin Zhang at
Address: School of Foreign Languages, Central China Normal University
                152 Luoyu Road, Wuhan, Hubei 430079, China
Phone: 86-138-8606 7048;86-27-6786 5655

More on CAAP

From a single line of old, clumsy code ...

Book cover
Book cover

Geeta Dayal in «Slate Book Review» reviews a book that will make you dizzy. In "BASIC: A single line of code sends readers into a labyrinth" she explores the mysteries of a brief line of computer code that draws a strange, beautiful and endless maze pattern on the screen, and much more besides. Here's a precis of what she writes:

10 PRINT CHR$ (205.5 + RND (1)); : GOTO 10, a new book collaboratively written by 10 authors, takes a single line of code, inscribed in the book’s mouthful of a title, and explodes it.

That one line, a seemingly clumsy scrap of BASIC, generates a fascinatingly complicated maze on a Commodore 64. Run the little program on an emulator—or on an actual Commodore 64, if you happen to have one collecting dust in your basement—and a work of art unfolds before your very eyes, as the screen slowly fills up in a mesmerizing fashion...

The book, which has also been released for free download under a Creative Commons license, unspools 10 PRINT’s strange history and dense web of cultural connections, winding its way through the histories of mazes and labyrinths, grids in modern art, minimalist music and dance, randomness, repetition, textiles, screensavers, and Greek mythology. There are forays into early computer graphics, hacking, Cold War military strategy and Pac-Man. References abound, from the Commodore 64 user’s manual to Roland Barthes’ S/Z. This is a book where Dungeons and Dragons and Abstract Expressionism get equal consideration.

Though 10 PRINT CHR$ (205.5 + RND (1)); : GOTO 10 is occasionally whiplash-inducing in its headlong rush through history, the connections it makes over 294 pages are inspired. One of the most compelling sections of the book discusses the cultural history of mazes, relating 10 PRINT’s maze back to the labyrinth of Knossos, where, according to the great Greek myth, Theseus waged battle with the terrifying Minotaur.

You can read the full review here.

Photo below: Geeta Dayal.


Photo: Geeta Dayal