Commentaries - April 2015

On the design of poetic mentorship

Trained as an engineer, Christine Rhein spent the first part of her adult life working in the auto industry, that boom and bust core of the Detroit economy.  She tells me that this background in mechanical design has shaped her poetry in a kind of dialectics of freedom and constraint.  On the one hand, she finds herself approaching a new poem as a puzzle to be solved, a design problem.  And yet the poem as problem doesn't lend itself to a purely mathematical or rational solution.  Instead, a kind of surprise haunts the poetic machine.

Textile, labor, buildings: Lesson plans for an 'evoked epigenetics'

On Spivak, Kuppers, and Kocik

Textile thinking leads quickly to thoughts on labor. Why? Because making cloth is an ancient art, because garment workers are always on labor’s front lines, because a garment surrounds us, houses us. We absorb the energy of the conditions of its making. So, too, with buildings. In this commentary, I consider cloth, garment workers, and transnational labor awareness. Then, I move on to architecture, buildings. As a garment houses us, buildings also do, and their walls have been set, built up, finished by workers’ hands and hands that operate machines. The carpet is laid. The chairs are unwrapped. Key card access is programmed.

Bright arrogance #6


Of the “three grades of evil . . . in the queer world of verbal transmigration,” Nabokov places vernacularism at the lowest circle of Hell. “The third, and worst, degree of turpitude is reached when a masterpiece is planished and patted into such a shape, vilely beautified in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and prejudices of a given public.” In another place, he says that “A schoolboy’s boner mocks the ancient masterpiece less” than work that attempts to create a more “readable” version than the original. Since this column explores, and indeed celebrates versions that are wildly discrepant from the original, we should perhaps forget Nabokov’s contempt, and embrace the vernacularist translator—even espousing the No Fear Shakespeare series and its ilk as a harbinger of fearless literary experimentation to come, in its promise to translate the works of Shakespeare into “the kind of English people actually speak today.”

Your tweets, now with more poetry

Poetweet transforms users' tweets into sonnets, rondels, or indrisos
Poetweet transforms users' tweets into sonnets, rondels, or indrisos

Ever wonder what tweets would look like remixed into poetic form? This question, which few people were probably asking, is the premise behind the application Poetweet. Simply type in a Twitter handle, choose between sonnet, rondel, or indriso, and the application generates a poem.

"Divya Victor" is one such poem generated through Poetweet, using the Jacket2 Twitter account:

Juan Luis Martínez and his double

The ethics of dissapearance or writing the other's work

Scott Weintraub (right) and the other Juan Luis Martinez (left) in Santiago
Scott Weintraub (right) and the other Juan Luis Martinez (left) in Santiago

There has been some relevant news about Juan Luis Martínez’s work circulating for a while. Scott Weintraub, an academic of the University of New Hampshire, has published in Santiago, Chile, and the US two important books of essays discussing a crucial discovery concerning Martínez’s posthumous publications.