Commentaries - April 2014

Geomantic riposte: 'Wood Spoken'

Born in Norway and raised in Colorado and Virginia, Erling Friis-Baastad emigrated to Toronto in 1969 and has spent most of his adult life in the Yukon Territory. He is a widely published journalist, essayist, and book reviewer, and works as an editor with the Yukon News in Whitehorse. With Canadian short story maven Patricia Robertson, he has edited (if not pioneered) Writing North, an anthology of Yukon writers from the last decade of the twentieth century. Friis-Baastad’s accomplished collection Wood Spoken: New and Selected Poems showcases the thirty-year career of the poet who is credited with bringing contemporary poetry to the territory, and is considered a landmark event in its literary scene, and is most certainly a warm and generous ‘wayfinder’ for those agile poets snowshoeing after him.

Quantum computing is the new negative capability

Purported quantum supercomputer, courtesy of D-Wave via NPR
Purported quantum supercomputer, courtesy of D-Wave via NPR

While quantum supercomputers are still at the early stages of development, they will replace digital computers, making the processing of data billions of times faster. Whereas digital computers rely on the binary code of 1 and 0, quantum supercomputers use qubits that can exist as 1, as 0, and, most importantly, as any superposition of 1 and 0. The binary code in digital computing exists in one of two definite states: “You’re either with us or against us....”—George W. Bush, 2001. Unlike binary code, quantum supercomputer qubits behave as probabilistic superpositions of all states since they follow how subatomic particles behave in quantum mechanics.

In audio practice I


Chris Funkhouser, Penn’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 2010
Chris Funkhouser working on Harry Mathews tapes, Penn’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 2010

I bought my first purposeful audio recorder, a simple handheld Sony cassette device, a week after completing Naropa’s Summer Writing Program in 1986—planning to use it as a composition tool, to “compose on the tongue” in Ginsbergian terms. Ginsberg described, in one of our classes, his successes and failures in using a recorder to “write” [see his Composed on the Tongue, Grey Fox (1980) for some discussion of his practice in this area]. His notion, writing-by-dictation, seemed compelling: I was about to embark on my first cross-country road trip so I imagined imparting my own observation dictations à la Fall of America. Little of substance came from that experiment, though I later ended up using that recorder to document some readings and band rehearsals; quality of these tapes, which I still have, is not good—this was rudimentary recording tech and cheap cassettes barely sustaining documentation.

Pier Paolo Pasolini: Eight poems for Ninetto (1970–73)

Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ninetto Davoli
Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ninetto Davoli

Translation from Italian & Commentary by Peter Valente

[These poems are part of a sequence whose central focus is Pasolini’s love for the young actor Ninetto Davoli.  They are selected from the 112 works that exist in various states of draft and revision, most of them written during the filming of the “Canterbury Tales” in England and completed on Pasolini’s return to Italy. The last poem in the sequence is dated “February 1973.”]

Geomantic riposte: 'Unearthed'

A Mohawk writer from the Six Nations band in southern Ontario, Janet Marie Rogers was born in Vancouver BC and has resided in Victoria BC since 1994, where she is currently rounding out her three year term as that capital city’s Poet Laureate. A published and award-winning poet, she has many notable works to her name and in a variety of media.