Double Agent

Closed to poetry
I come, expectant, to a moment
where prose just won’t work.
So I sit and wait.

Is the muse jealous of my stories?
Is the rhythm lost?
The stream damned?

It’s such a leap
and I tense those muscles
to cross from something like a simile
to a metaphor unbound.

But I learn the lack doesn’t sit elsewhere.
I’m the one who’s out of touch.

The flow is still there.
But what is left to betray?

–2009/6/17–

Poetry is

I started reading Thinking and Singing edited by Tim Lilburn, one of the poets I saw read on Monday. His writing is extremely dense. I really liked the following quote:

Poetry and long talk: oddly, in effect, the two appear equivalent: both are beckoning ways in; both are maieutic, lifting to the tongue latent things, lit things no one planned to say. Neither, it seems, fully trusts its elder brother, systematic though; each will upend it; sometimes, however, poetry or dialectic will use system to draw what needs saying further along. It can seem with such talk that the conversation itself often is doing the thinking, the speakers contributing simply their confusion, their pressing to know, each listening for where the talk wants to go, attempting to “hear” the watercourse it’s found. Many poets say that poetry, too, is largely listening, that what is wanted is a kind of negative attention, an alert emptiness …
–taken from Tim Lilburn’s preface to Thinking and Singing: Poetry and the Practice of Philosophy

“Largely listening” and “alert emptiness”. Wow. Apt.

Poetry in the ebar

I attended the poetry reading in the Bookshelf this past Monday (April 7th, 7pm). Three poets were represented:

Karen Houle
Tim Lilburn
Alison Pick

This is an alphabetical list. They presented in the reverse order.

I really enjoyed Alison Pick‘s reading, side stories and poetry. She read from her latest book: The Dream World which covers a 5 year period where she moved to Newfoundland and back. It was warm, approachable and evoked a strong sense of place with me. My wife and I moved to Nova Scotia for 8 years in the late 80′s and, perhaps because of this, I found I could relate very well.

Tim Lilburn is more of cipher. He read from his new book Orphic Politics. This book devles into what he describes as an undiscovered country: illness. Tim’s rythmic hand gestures reminded me of a beat poet but that’s where the similarity and accessibility ended. The poetry does not lend itself to oral presentation, in fact I found I couldn’t connect with it all in that venue. It’s complex and I would probably need to read his poetry myself with a dictionary to understand it.

Karen Houle’s work was the least enjoyable for me. I found it subjective, pretentious and angry. Her poetry is too one-sided to invoke anything but a reaction to her specifically. She read from During.

I applaud the Bookshelf for hosting this event to kick off Poetry Week. I’ve already put holds on all the works these authors have in the library so I’ll learn more (except Karen who didn’t have any books there).

Science vs. Poetry?

Is there is conflict between the two? Consider the following quote.

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.
- Paul Dirac

Paul Dirac is an interesting character but I think he is ignorant about the reality of science in these words. Certainly the best people and ideas that science has to offer can follow this dictum but the vast majority of science does not. You have much science that is as unintelligible to ‘people’ as poetry is reputed to be. Need an example? OK. Here is the title from a random article from the current Journal of Science:

Epochal Evolution Shapes the Phylodynamics of Interpandemic Influenza A (H3N2) in Humans
by Katia Koelle, Sarah Cobey, Bryan Grenfell, Mercedes Pascual

I’m a trained biologist (I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in it) and I can figure out a little of what the authors are doing here but would someone untrained in science and, more specifically, in biology have any hope? I have my doubts. But perhaps I just picked a bad one. How about another random pick, this time by picking one of the research articles under the T’s in authors:

The Heartbeat of the Oligocene Climate System
Heiko Pälike, Richard D. Norris, Jens O. Herrle, Paul A. Wilson, Helen K. Coxall, Caroline H. Lear, Nicholas J. Shackleton, Aradhna K. Tripati, Bridget S. Wade

Can you understand what this means just from the title? I actually have to applaud the authors for using a term like ‘heartbeat’: it is, in fact, very poetic and unscientific but until you understand what heartbeat means to the authors you cannot know what this title means either.

But what is my point? I usually try to be brief in these golb entries after all. Well here it is, Mr. Dirac (this founder of quantum physics has unfortunately passed away and so I am unsure he can read or hear this rebuttal):

It takes a great deal of effort, perhaps too much in our complicated world, to make anything simple. Or, at least, simpler. Most ideas that are interesting and worth knowing take work to understand, to grok and to internalize. Science, Poetry and other things all have their own lingo that you need to learn in order to get at the shock and awe of the author’s words if they, in fact, exist. Science and the articles that expand it rarely makes itself understandable by everyone. And, I agree, poetry rarely achieves this either. I don’t think it is the function of either to do so. There are talented individuals who spend a lot of time trying to interpret them for us, the common masses, who don’t have the time to make these our areas of expertise. Like text book authors and TV science programs like Discovery or radio programs like Quirks and Quarks and English teachers and book clubs. They are the great interpreters these for the common woman and man. And sometimes they get it right and don’t put penguins and polar bears together doing it.