Of Lusty Summer the Passing Goodly QueenBy Uche Ogbuji
August 07, 2010
In summer of 2009, in a comment on my own piece, “Only one poem for the implosion of Capital”, I invoked Skelton for his leadership bringing female grace upon my pen.
Refresshyng myndys the Aprell shoure of rayne;
Condute of comforte, and well most souerayne;
Herber enverduryd, contynuall fressh and grene;
Of lusty somer the passyng goodly quene;
(Refreshing minds the April shower of rain;
Conduit of comfort, and well most sovereign;
Herber enverdured, continual fresh and green; “Herber enverdured”: herb garden covered in greenery
Of lusty summer the passing goodly queen;)
Last year was a pretty good one for writing, but there must have been a superior, secondary, annual echo, because about a month ago, the goodly passing queen halted, pulled up a chair, and flourished a Midsummer birch wand. Someone must have whispered my need in her ear.
One-time featured TNB poet Heather Fowler runs an annual poetry marathon in July. Each day she posts a new theme, and a new poetical form on Facebook, writes a suitable poem or two, and then invites other poets to join in. I dipped in a toe a bit diffidently at first, but by the time the month was out, I found I’d written over forty poems, with a surprising level of concentration. Along the way I learned and re-learned a few things about my own poetic impulses.
Along the way I also put to use something I claimed in my article “Poetry for the Nervous, Vol 2: What’s useful?”
“I’ve found that the more poetry I have coursing through my veins, the faster I write, the less I suffer writer’s block, and the more readily I marshal all the latent intellectual resources at my disposal. That doesn’t just go for literary writing. I also write a lot of technical articles in my professional career, and as a businessman I write a lot of commercial correspondence. It is a real gift to be able to do so very efficiently, focusing less on the mechanics of writing than on the technical and business problems at hand.“
July was a hell of a month for business problems at hand.
I co-founded my company with three other partners, and as with all small business, it’s a perpetual strategic balance to maintain a sound footing. We’ve grown over the years, which is good, but there have also been emerging stresses on how best to achieve this strategic balance, and the stresses reached a breaking point in late June. The month was an imposing wall of meetings with and proposals to departing and prospective partners; corporate administrative matters; calls to employees to ensure they could remain productive despite all the furore, and so on. There was real urgency provided by the fact that my wife is due to give birth in August. I did not want the mess to seep into August. The upshot: a lot of writing, and a lot of reading, including at one point the full statutes deriving from the Virginia Limited Liability Company act. There was enough water in July to form a wicked drowning pool. Let the bodies hit the floor, for sure¹.
The first of July came along with circumstances that really made me worry about the future of the company. The call was unmistakable to roll up the sleeves. I embraced the weekend like a final, large gulp of air before submerging into that pool for who knew how long. For this reason the first poetic challenge I could swing into was July 4th. “Write a quatern on the theme ‘Oubliet/tte’.” “Forgetting” sounds nice. Oh snap! Quatern!
I started seriously writing poetry late in secondary school. As soon as I got to University, as I’ve related in my inaugural TNB piece, I ran into a formidable culture of wordsmiths. Many of my new poet friends loved exercise in forms, and wrote sonnets, villanelles, heroic couplets and more. I went along with all that, of course, but my love for French poetry was really burgeoning, so I also went in the direction of the various rondel variations, triolets, quaterns and such. Since leaving Nigeria I’d largely gotten away from heavy experimenting with forms, because this is an activity so much more pleasurable in poetic companionship with others, which I’d lost once I arrived in the US. I’ve become used to my comfortable old shoes—iambic tetrameter quatrain, and odd, invented forms of my own.
Here I was tickled back towards the quatern. Not a bad bomb bursting in air for July 4th. “Oubliette” of course made me think of an old favorite, Corbière’s “Sonnet de Nuit”
Qui me renferme…dehors!
(Bolted up dungeon
Which encloses me…outside!)
I started to translate this into an English quatern, but I kept hearing in the back of my mind an opening echo from Neruda:
Si tú me olvidas, quiero
Que tú sepas una cosa.
(If you forget me
I wish you to know
So my quatern began:
The cell is ten dreams by ten nights
I’ve paced forever to its zero
”Si tú me olvidas, quiero
Que tú sepas una cosa”: my light
Gutters against your fading picture
The cell is ten dreams by ten nights.
Once I found the right fount, in Neruda, the poem flowed effortlessly into the form. July 4th. After a frightfully sapping weekend I posted my completed poem and basked in a corona of new-found energy more spectacular than any of the municipal rocketry displays in earnest progress. Off I went to the other family activities planned for the long weekend.
Tuesday started with the expected wallop, and also settled the pattern for July right away. I’d wake up to feverish sequences of e-mail in the morning (many of my colleagues are two timezones ahead). Over brunch I’d read Heather’s main note, and ponder the theme and form a little while. Back to work I’d go. When I finally turned my back on office matters in the evening, I’d grab my pen, despite being nearly crushed with exhaustion. I’d start writing and to my surprise, the poem would flow almost autonomously. Sometimes I’d find myself writing two or even three poems. The resulting burst of energy would serve me in leaving the troubles behind as I spent time with the family, and as I participated here on TNB, and with the others sharing poems with Heather. Each day would drain me, and each poetic evening would revive me with amazing sureness. It was like driving my Prius through the continental divide mountains. The uphills would use up all the hybrid battery juice, and the engine would be squirreling the last miles to the crest of the pass, then the downhill would recharge the batteries to the electronic display’s lime green brim.
I tried my hand at forms I’d never ventured in before: fibonacci sequence, ethere, cinquain, ghazal. I’d always wanted to try my hand at ghazal, but no poem had ever presented itself to me to write that way. July 18th, my hand was forced: “write a ghazal to the theme ‘lucid dreaming.'”
My doom marked once I get the sign I crave
Sly look my way casting that shine I crave.
From reverie to rest I hire your form
For scenes on sets whose design I crave.
My tongue on, my lips press those sweet nipples
Round which sweep the fleshly line I crave.
“From reverie to rest” of course a half line from Jonathan Swift’s “The Day of Judgment” that popped into my mind upon the phrase “lucid dreaming.” July 18th Heather set us to terzanelles, a new form for me, a cross between a villanelle and terza rima. I used to write villanelles, but beyond teenage I’d found them too cloying. The terzanelle variation mixes just enough spice into proceedings. I was smitten. I wrote one, then another, then another. A friend posted a line on Facebook and mused that it looked like something I’d turn into a poem. I duly turned it into a terzanelle. I listened to Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), and before I knew it I was writing a terzanelle for each song.
Satisfaction and desire cross
Timelines like lazy jet trails against blue
Background of embrace, creation, loss.
Even hesi braves strict ordeal ruled…true;
Concentrating on music, lover and babies
Timelines like lazy jet trails against blue
Willing happiness away from maybes
(Whisper one…two…three…CLAP! One…two…three…CLAP!)
Concentrating on music, lover and babies.
Often the day’s theme, or Heather’s starter poem, would stir into consciousness some memorized poem, or poem fragment. During the work day, the feelers would start to creep into my consciousness, and I’d have to reluctantly shake them shake off and focus. But did these truncated tendrils continue to weave their mesh into complete poems in my subconscious? July 20th. “Write a huitain on the theme ‘dancing.'” I was airport bound, then hurrying to the gate, flight to Washington DC. Bounding in my head as I went along, Ezra Pound’s “Dance Figure”. I got to the gate as it was boarding, and almost held up the plane, writing a poem that spilled out onto a piece of scrap paper balanced on my knee.
Dark eyed, woman of my dreams,
Burnt jewel perfection, regal date,
Your hands on me like frosted streams,
Like winding sheet of goddess fate.
The month went on with the drama playing out at work. World cup final day I watched the game with a bunch of my francophone friends, several of whom are also entrepreneurs. Marc (name changed) has been involved in a lot of business and investing drama on his time. At half time we’re chatting about my corporate problem. He gives me a telescoping look and says “do you want me to put in a serious, but low-ball bid on the company to skew valuation in your favor?” I actually hesitate a moment before laughing it off, and we turn back to the game. July 25th. “Write a cleave to the theme ‘Oranges Are Not,'” a variation of a theme I’d suggested, in honor of Holland: “Clockwork Orange.” Half lines from World Cup finals day sifted into that diabolical form in the requisite two columns.
almost time for the game slow, sultry afternoon
relish the unstripping sunlight off bare skin
to don the Oranje and sudden occlusion
frisson of excitement fingertip under trim of cloth
cresting wave of build-up electric junebug of static stroke
crashes into early attack smart of unexpected discharge
and sudden dry clarity and sticky examination
tang of the sour core of hothouse grape gambit
clockwork orange so much for tactics
Junebugs. That came from an off-hand complaint by Becky Palapala. Scraps, snippets, ingredients shaken into a confetti cannon and blasted into the air, all were coalescing under the influence of a strange field of gestalt.
But what was the source of the field? Is this what happens at poetic workshops? I’ve always scorned workshops, from my second-hand knowledge of them. My impression of them is of reductive, depersonalizing experience. I suppose it probably depends on the participants. Perhaps it was just the rhythm of writing something every day, combined with the fact that I’d be surprised by theme and form each day, further combined with other events in my life that heightened the rush from poetic release, fueling a beneficial addiction. Or maybe it was all a special moment, and I shouldn’t worry too hard about figuring out how to bottle it.
We resolved the situation at my company right at the end of the month. The resolution was fair, but also favorable to our continued success. It was a huge weight off my shoulders that we settled matters before I had to turn my attention to the new household arrival. I’ve observed to my wife that poetry helped me focus. That it probably saved my company. So much for people who scoff that poetry doesn’t have its applications. That it has no place in the practical world.
My practical world in July was a marbled texture of hard economic realities and the aethereal, courtly spell of Erato, of Summer’s goodly queen. The hard stuff was always prone to shatter, leaving a wreck of sharp-edged pieces, without the unexpected grace of soft poetic lining.
It’s a lesson that might be worth contemplating more broadly, living as we are in times perhaps too clogged with sharp-edged pieces of hard economic reality, while too bare of the soft, protective lining of poetry and her sister arts.
¹ Considering this is TNB I considered using an allusion from the MacDonald novel “The Drowning Pool” instead, but nah, the band gets it closer to the mood.
Note: all verses quoted in this post are fragments of complete poems.
There is nothing for me to say or add except for this:
You are awesome, Uche.
Oh, and my second favourite word of all time is ‘oubliette.’
Thanks, Zara. Interesting pick, considering what a wicked word it is. I trust you like it for the sound and not the sense 😉
Oubliette is indeed an awesome word…especially when its derivation is considered. Oublier, as I’m sure you know, is French for to forget.
I’ve been reading a lot of astrology books lately, as I have a series of difficult transits this year — and, indeed, so does the rest of humanity. Today, in fact, is the Grand Cardinal Cross, which happens every 800 years or so. A summer of conflict and crisis for all. So it was interesting that this mirrored some of the astrology reading.
But more importantly: congrats on impending fatherhood (this will make four, right?). A big year indeed chez Ogbuji.
Humm. I’m no astrology type, but curious, I looked it up.
“A cardinal Grand Cross is said to cause a particular difficulty in accomplishing goals because the individual wants to accomplish everything at the same time: he/she usually ends up accomplishing very little (if anything at all).”
So that is said to affect everyone regardless of sign? And what about people born under that configuration? Are they pretty well screwed? If so, believer or not, I might not join Lori in wishing the baby comes early 😉
And yes the baby would be number 4.
I guess as many like to say, of poets especially, sic iter ad astra.
I am this moment struck by an astounding parallel/paradox that immediately makes absolutely perfect sense.
No longer anecdotal the emerging meme
a fully blossomed common theme
that those with music in their soul
are most advantaged, shoveling the coal
for the engines of information
that power the flagships
merely a musician unencumbered
yet by melody, comes in flavors:
Those who delight in architecture
that marvel at ingenious structure
and how inhabitants therein
fit living to enclosure’s whim
Then there is the naturist
formalist form and fit
he breaks no mold
there is none to break
let the words
find their way
whom to love
whom to shun
whom to join
in the dance.
The information scientist
merely a musician unencumbered
yet by context, comes in flavors;
Can you not guess? let’s test your wit:
He reaches for the self same kit.
Uche, would you please edit this for me, and substitute “context” for “semantics”?
dwoz, in approximate Skeltonics, too. Bravo! 🙂
May I humbly suggest dropping “the” from “shoveling the coal” for better rhythmic concord?
Once I’d specialized in information science, it was poetry that drew me to semantic technology, and in particular to the concept I’ve worked most to build, of relative semantic transparency in semi-structured databases (there goes that hyper-specialization again 😉 ), and which is the basis of my consulting work. I do think that many information scientists could do well to think more poetically and less mathematically. You’re right that the state common art is to shrug off encumbrance of context, but this is exactly what causes so many of the problems in IT, including the difficulty in working with databases over time.
It’s worth mentioning that some of the other poets in the marathon chose to focus on the theme, and write in free verse. Some of those were quite lovely. I only wrote one poem in free verse, but it was inspired by Christopher Okigbo’s allusion to Miguel Hernandez, and it’s hard to follow Okigbo’s aggressive formlessness in form. At one point, anyway, then the form was tanka, one of the others posted a poem saying, to paraphrase, that rules, whether of grammar or of form are straitjackets for imagination. Clearly I don’t agree, but I made my response in the form of ~tanka.
The “the” in “shoveling the coal” shifts/upsets the cadence on the following lines to midline emphasis, putting ‘power’ and ‘engines’ in primacy.
But your idea works beautifully too!
If I may be so bold as to comment on the tech side…
I agree with the maintainability problem you mention…but for VERY different reason. The problem comes from a failure to acknowledge that the database model itself is merely an extension of the business logic, and that the data DOESN’T EXIST INDEPENDENTLY of the logic.
De-contextualizing databases potentially enables much more freedom and flexibility in maintenance and downstream refactory, but ONLY if the logic context is acknowledged and honored. Old-school data structure was statist, declaring that state defined all relevance in the data. New structures blur that a bit, but place a burden on higher-level project artifacts.
In working with databases over time, that really boils down to migration and atomization. Let’s face it, that’s the only two issues. The new, post-migration data iteration must either carry forward the implicit business milieu, or “park” it someplace. Atomization (i.e. data warehouse) used to typically be a simple denormalizing exercise…with decontextualized databases it must be more. Or, in fact, it can be LESS. No longer an actual NEED to maintain a warehouse independent of your transactional model.
Of course, none of this makes any sense whatsoever unless we’re in the world of wide-bit, stupidly muscle-bound hardware.
Increasing horsepower is directly proportional to the ability to move to higher abstraction levels, and to the DESIRABILITY to do so.
MVC has been a sham all along. The model has NEVER been pure, it’s always encapsulated vast swaths of real estate rightly belonging to the other two areas. The answer to it is to move the whole model up a step in the META direction.
I’m currently working on a new social computing framework that uses a HIGHLY meta-form data structure, and a rules engine for everything else. Controlled Chaos, indeed!
Yeah, so as far as what it takes to fix the state of the art in DBMS, you and I do disagree a bit, but it at least sounds as if we agree that more fundamental changes are needed, for example, MVC has always been a sham of its claims, as you say.
I do agree with you about atomization, warehouse schema are a good example of the database industry’s insistence in strongly-coupled linking/relationships. I’ve always argued that the Web proves that loosely coupled linking may seem superficially sloppy, but is the only approach that is proven to scale over time and volume.
As for data versus logic, I suspect our disagreement, or even whether or not we disagree is bound up in what you mean by logic. For me, there are many aspects of what database folks consider logic that are really just contextual annotations on the data. What I like to call logic are imperative operations over data and such annotations, and that latter classification IMO should be completely separate from the data. I’ll just quote what I said in an article a few years ago. most of my articles are written regarding XML, since that’s my area of expertise, but even by the lights of my general DBMS background, I still hold to these precepts across information management systems.
Cobol is a great example because it exposes another whole layer of the problem, that of the very cultural aspects.
If there’s anything that interface-driven APIs and object oriented methodologies do, it’s to change the actual development culture. The reason we’re even looking at things like the Internet, and all that it entails, is because we moved off languages like COBOL that tended to enshrine and entomb the data under a thick blanket of ritualistic process.
This is perhaps the only domain in which Sapir-Wolf linguistic theory is respected and considered relevant.
The language itself drives the type of culture that arises. OO and encapsulation, particularly if it’s at an enterprise level, lets us break away into new processing methodologies without having to wait a whole generation to do it.
Also, I think the real problem with retiring legacy COBOL was as much around the “jumping from a moving train” problem as anything. Because so many of those systems were/are five-nines availability, the nuances of the moment of transition itself far eclipsed the actual complexity or difficulty of the refactoring! Then it comes down to the point where the application eventually hits Non-Business Functional that the pain point is accepted.
I agree with your characterization of “logic” as being two distinct things, as contextual annotations and transformational processes. And BOTH are relevant in the discussion, because of the tendency of narrow-world-view technologists to apply the “since I have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” method. The DBA will gleefully press into business logic service, the triggers and stored procs that were originally designed for simple relational and transactional integrity. Hilarity ensues.
Like MVC or three-tier enterprise architectures. They start off with the best intentions, but pretty soon, there’s lipstick on the hem of the dress, there’s mud on the shoes, and soon it’s all just a big smear. The structures don’t NATURALLY describe the world, they’re artificial.
I too think that XML and other SGML-derived structures are the lingua franca, and it’s a bellwether sign if a project hasn’t got schemas.
OK, so sounds like we’re closer aligned than I’d at first thought. So curious, what is your specialty in your field (note that I generally scorn specialties. A good information scientist is a good information scientist, period, and I know you’re a pretty well-rounded type as well, but in this industry it’s hard to get away from at least ostensibly marking some territory).
Lately I’ve been getting into rules engines. Decision matrices, that kind of good stuff.
That’s typically the domain of AI, but I’m not really thinking in that kind of direction. Instead of artificial intelligence, I’m more thinking of how to abstract business decisions out of code and into user-configurable decision trees. But what’s most interesting about that process, is not the tech side…that’s almost trivial…it’s that the business almost never (at least rarely) actually has the slightest idea what they need to do.
So my work is pushing up into blurring the line between business project documentation artifacts and the actual on-the-ground implementation.
In doing this, I realize, as every practitioner since Babbage has, that hard-wired and compartmentalized data taxonomies will just kick your ass. And even when the executive level is talking about “tearing down the silos” in a sincere way, the silos themselves will cut out your liver and eat it for breakfast if you try to touch anything.
For money, today, I work on the software that moves about 1/2 of the interbank money transfers around the USA. Not very sexy work, and surprisingly arcane.
For some perspective…I used to work for Rational.
Ah good stuff, as long as it is applied with a properly circumspect and skeptical eye . You probably know that Semantic Web took the direction for a long time of inference and formal description logics, which gave all the rules engine vendors and led to abominations such as OWL DL and RuleML. That turned me off hard. I had a minor focus in AI in college, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that backward chaining and search algorithms are very valuable skills, but are very prone to overkill.
I don’t know much about modern decision tree technology and how it differs from good old-fashioned basic forward chaining, but you make it sound as if its become a bit more practical, which is good.
“blurring the line between business project documentation artifacts and the actual on-the-ground implementation” is exactly what the industry has needed for a while. It’s been the theoretical aim since 4GLs and such, but as we’ve discussed a lot of that has been sabotaged by conflating different kinds of business process artifacts.
I’ll have to chat with you one day about my own approach to tearing down silos because you’re right about the treacherousness of the ex cathedra approach to that, and I think there are better approaches.
Finally, back office clearing of financial transactions and order entry are two examples of areas where a lot of my own “semi-structured” prejudices have no place. I can definitely understand a very mathematical, and cleanly dimensional design. In your area the implications of “context” can run into the millions and even billions of dollars. Neat stuff, but buddy, better you than me 😉
Oh hey, an ex Rational guy. Can I say that I hated you guys? I was a Booch afficionado, and though I know Booch always needed a bit more, I always felt that rational came along and pretty much turned it into a complexity industry. Naturally IBM were quick to snap them up 😉 Were you there through the merger into IBM?
FWIW, I used to be an OO fanatic, but I’ve been well off that for nearly a decade.
I did a half years’ research into extant java rules engines, and at the end of it in disgust, I said “fuck that shit” and wrote my own engine.
Everything seemed like a solution in search of a problem.
Let me put it this way: the very fact that you’d need a Rete algorithm in ANY domain is a SURE sign that your architecture is WRONG.
My rules (for which there are 4 patents in application) are XML based. The most amazing thing about existing rules engines (like the leader, DRools), was that it not only required MORE programming resources, rather than fewer, but it managed to break every single goal. Encapsulation? Security? user-enablement? Oh, did I mention SECURITY??????
I’m still an OO fanatic, but not a nazi. While the conspiracy theorist in me likes to think that OO was invented in order to enable offshoring, instead of any kind of intrinsic technological benefit…it still has a certain appeal.
If only because it disambiguates the scope of references, and makes fucking GOTO disappear.
Come to think of it, a backward chaining rules engine is BY DEFINITION a solution in search of a problem!
The three amigos did kind of torpedo Booch, did they not?
I thought Booch was too architecture-bound. Not as in application architecture, but in machine-bound.
But all of it is just shorthand. The whole code-generation via modelling turned out to be the boondoggle we all thought it would.
Framework is easy. It’s like a toilet that flushes itself. Thanks, I think.
“Let me put it this way: the very fact that you’d need a Rete algorithm in ANY domain is a SURE sign that your architecture is WRONG.”
OK, another quote from yours in this comment thread I’d love to frame up and send to a few folks 🙂
On the other hand, my brother Chimezie does work on something called FuXi:
“The general idea is to leverage the efficiency of the RETE-UL algorithm as the ‘engine’ for an open-source expert system for the semantic web, built on Python and rdflib. It is inspired by its predecessors: cwm, pychinko – Rete-based RDF friendly rule engine, and euler – Euler proof mechanism.”
I do keep an eye on his work (his day job is Clinical Informatics the the Cleveland Clinic), and we’ve discussed many times that such tools are great for serendipitous, slow analysis, and possibly raising patterns for human attention, but as you say, should almost never be at the heart of core operational algorithms. He does some pretty interesting work with FuXi and smart chat bots, and I think he uses it for some basic fact enrichment in patient record info (again only for attention to expert human workers.)
Anyway, this has been fun, but even though it is my thread to hijack, we’re probably way over-high, jack, so I’ll make this my last hardcore tech comment here.
I do wish there were some place for very literary-minded techies to scatter left-brain/right-brain banter to their heart’s content.
Agreed, this is beginning to (?) stretch the boundaries of the premise! Just in closing, the thing about the rules engine architecture optimization, is that Rete (and all other methodologies like it) basically say, “hey, we have this cartesian product…let’s figure out how to optimize it!” Instead of STOPPING at “hey, we have this cartesian product” and backing up. I don’t care how clever you are, you’re still trying to manipulate a cartesian product, which is like trying to drain the ocean with a spoon.
Also, I’ve come to believe that the data model is the wrong place to do taxonomy. Instead the model must implement taxonomy.
I agree that data model is the wrong place for taxonomy, but I also believe that a monolithic taxonomy will always fail quickly. I think that it is imperative that annotations on the data support multiple instances of taxonomy, and that tools make it easy to correlate and navigate these. In my opinion computer science needs to press the reset button on many of its precepts by starting with Ranganathan (of Library Science fame), and continuing from there.
Note: above article is not really deep enough, but it’s all I have near at hand. I’ve always wanted to write a more comprehensive paper on Ranganathan and data architecture.
Uche, the only part of this comment that I understand is: “needs to press the reset button on many of its precepts by starting with . . .”
Come to think of it, I don’t get that part either.
Yeah, we got a little carried away there. It’s like two guys have been tending crop together at an organic co-op, and then one day they discover they’re both psycholinguists and start yapping all “behavioral genesis of priming effect” this and “arcuate fasciculus” that, annoying everyone else just trying to keep the hoe moving. 🙂
although to our mutual credit, I don’t think any of that big block of copy has much if any gratuitous jargon…
on the topic of grammar and/or form being straitjackets for imagination…
I’m with you.
Working within a form is NOT limiting the field of expression. It is focusing the domain and scale of expression.
Would Ansel Adams be “improved” by working in E6 rather than black and white? He exercises his range of expression in tone and composition, rather than in hue.
I say the same thing about country music. The form is extremely constraining. But the key is achieving expression within the scale that you have available.
If it was easy, then you’d listen to country music and be constantly blown away. Since so much of it is drivel, the only conclusion is that it isn’t quite as simple as it looks. A great country song will be great in whatever genre you move it to, and an Ansel Adams image would be breathtaking in whatever medium you printed it in.
dwoz, I’ve got a gorgeous big A Adams colour photo. One of my friends said, “Yeah, that’s Arthur Adams.” Sometimes my friends can be a bit biting.
Wow, man. You’re in deep. I love the image of the corporate warrior being a closet poet. I suspect, thought, that you’re not nearly as hidden as you might imagine. It’s probably why your business is going to explode. I, for one, am definitely more likely to invest my ready cash with a quoter of quaterns. Not to mention purchasing thousands of units from someone familiar with the Fibonacci sequence (Wasn’t that a Matt Damon movie?)
I always love mentioning that T.S. Eliot was a banker, that W.C. Williams was a pediatrician, and that so many other poets we know had other main professions. I think that even if I had some kind of sinecure, I would not want to be a full time poet, and I do sometimes wonder about MacArthur Genius grants. I expect whether a sinecure aids or oppresses the poetic drive is a highly individual one.
I love quaterns, and I think we should require all public filings to the SEC to be made in quatern form. The Fibonacci sequence is a neat trick. I had fun dabbling in it the one day but I doubt I’ll revisit. I’m generally not too keen on pure syllabics in English because the language is very susceptible to limp statement, but at the same time, I guess that just forces the writer to be more aware. Of course the mathematical Fibonacci sequence is famous because of its correspondence to so many natural proportions and ratios, but I tried reading poetic equivalents aloud in many different ways, and alas, I did not hear the the eternal heartbeat of the cosmos in resonance with the words. Maybe I need chemical assistance 😉
We’ll see how the business goes, but to be honest, considering we’re in a down economy, I can’t really complain. I know a lot of other entrepreneurs who’ve had to pack it in and find secure employment at some bigger firm. I haven’t had to do so since 1997, and my main ambition is to keep things that way.
Wallace Stevens was an insurance salesman, as is/was Ted Kooser, former poet laureate of the USA.
Something to that.
Maybe I should get into insurance.
Oh yeas. Great example with the Stevens. I wasn’t aware of the Kooser factoid, though; props to him bucking the current trend because one of the reasons I think we see such a split in profession of poets during the 20th century is discussed in this article (“The Professionalization of Poetry”):
Not to disrespect those who have found ways to make a living purely on poetry-related activity, but I do think it’s a very bad idea when that becomes the assumed course and goal. Robert Graves of course has a lot to say about that.
Well, and, of course I have to say “is/was” about Kooser because now that he’s been poet laureate, he’s no longer an insurance man. (And I guess he was an executive, so the “salesman” label is a broad approximation.)
He has graduated to English prof. and professional poetdom now. So there’s some kind of catch 22 there.
So my question is:
With 20,000 poetry degrees flowing out of the paper mills every year…
…why is the radio so FULL of horrible lyric writing?
Someone should frame that question into a mock accreditation award sheepskin and send it to every MFA program in the US, and beyond. Not that we would actually hope to get a response, but it would be a satisfying stunt 😉
Yes, Sean. The Bourne post-Euclidean Conspiracy. Love those calibrated car crash sequences.
Been reading a translation
of Song of Songs
hands on me
like frosted streams
my my my
I like that you are
yet don’t take yourself too seriously
Artists who take themselves
too seriously screw it all
for the rest of us
Oh Song of Songs is marvelous. Just marvelous. And your ear is very sharp, my friend, because I must confess that my line is an adaptation from “Dance Figure,” where Pound writes
As a rillet among the sedge are thy hands upon me;
Thy fingers a frosted stream.
Pound’s entire poem is written to Old Testament rhythms.
One benefit of TNB is that I think it helps us calibrate how to take ourselves. Not too seriously of course, but just seriously enough. 🙂
Oh, almost missed your trenchant question at the top. When the first two lines popped into my head, I almost stopped and said a “grazie dei” without getting down the rest of the poem, because they flowed so completely from the stirring from the imagination at the junction between the “oubliette” theme and Neruda’s sentence. The zero is the end and the beginning, and also the nothing, the expression of the fact that the oubliette is nowhere in place or time. Of course there is a nod to Eliot’s “unimaginable zero summer,” which also pleased me because Eliot left that in the realm of oblivion, and here I am saying that’s precisely where I find myself.
Bravo, Uche! And good luck with the myriad facets of your life!
Thanks, Richard, and despite your modest protestations with regard to poetry, you contributed some fabulous pieces throughout the marathon, several of which provided touchstones for my own efforts.
“Oh snap! Quatern!”
See, Uche – THIS is why I adore you.
‘Oubliette’ reminds me of a visit I made to the Edinburgh castle once upon a time. We were standing in the dungeon looking at all of the cages and torture implements. Tongue extractors. Spiked chairs. Head presses. And then our tour guide takes us over to a small rectangular hole dug into the earth. “It’s called an oubliette,” he tells us. “They would put a person in there and just walk away. Forget about him.” I’ll never forget that. It seemed more horrific than anything else in that dungeon.
Gawd I am so with you. I don’t claim to be a badass who could withstand waterboarding, fingernail plucking and other physical tortures, but I do imagine that f I were faced with the choice between some of that and a sentence in the oubliette, I’d wince, and shuffle, trembling, to the rack.
Erika Rae, now I’ll never forget the meaning of “oubliette”. Kind of like my bedroom, actually. Wait, that could be misread. Oh just oubliette about it!
A most beautiful and heartfelt essay, Uche. I can only say again that it was my great pleasure to write with such a lovely and high-minded poet as yourself. I am so honored by this post, and so, I am going to do what I always do when so honored–go stand in the corner and blush about it, face turned to the wall, secretly very pleased and murmuring little parts of that it I liked aloud, feeling so very embarrassed and delighted that I could have been even one small part in its making.
Much heartfelt applause for you. You are welcome in any marathon I host. I’m glad the poetry was a break for your stress. Best of wishes, of course, for your booming success in business too!
Cheers and all warmest,
Thanks, Heather, and thanks for being such a marvelous leader and a source of so much inspiration. A couple of things I said to you on Facebook that I’ll quote in public:
“You’ve provided me more poetic inspiration this one month than I’ve had some years of my life.”
“Bottom line is that if you ever …need a poetical fitness coach, I think you can never hope to do better than Heather Fowler.”
While we’re on the topic of oubliettes, I have to confess a love of the sound of the word, and a horrified fascination with the concept. Literally, a box for forgetting someone in.
Uche: Fibonacci, Drowning Pool, Swift, and Skelton, all keeping company?
Talk about the twining of threads…
I’ve wondered, recently, about how immersion in effort, far from producing exhaustion, can actually provoke energy in the individual. That’s probably too much of a generalisation, but your experience would seem to bear that out.
Very glad to hear you’ve been immersing yourself in something you love so much, and it’s paid such dividends.
My very best, best wishes for August.
Large, contain multitudes, and all that Whitman jazz 🙂
I do think there is a great elasticity to human endeavor, and that sometimes efficiency comes from degree and diversity of effort. I guess I just have to find even more things to do 😉
Oh, Uche. I just love it when you write poetry and also write *about* poetry. It’s an honor and pleasure to know you and work with you as well. Peace.
Thanks. I probably should have have mentioned in the article that the way the TNB poetry section has gone from strength to strength has been another source of energy. And listening to your great recordings of fine poems is also inspiring. I’ve been thinking of recording some of my efforts from July with backing tracks.
Oh Uche I hope you get the chance to do that. With my complete ignorance of poetry (not to mention the conversation between you and dwoz regarding databases – yikes!) I still find that most often poetry resonates for me when I hear an impassioned reading. Great post, even though I only understood about one third. 😉
Dana, thanks. I’m sympathetic because I strongly believe that poetry is an aural medium, anyway. Whether in ancient Greece, among the Vikings, in Saracen empires or in sub-Saharan Africa, poetry was taken in listening to the bard recite. I guess I just always thought I’d have to make a big name for myself as a poet before getting the needed recording help, but having played around with GarageBand recently (thanks to Megan for tips and encouragement), I’m realizing I can pretty much do it all myself. Not at top quality, but well enough to dress the message up for folks who prefer it in sonic context. And it’s pretty fun 🙂
Simply reading your posts is an education, Uche.
Sometimes you wear my brain right out.
Hey Irene, so imagine how batty I drive myself, all that madness swarming about my brain like locusts, hornets and wasps. If I didn’t vent it into the ether now and then, I’d blow like Pinatubo. So in other words, my brain thanks you. 🙂
“I’ve observed to my wife that poetry helped me focus. That it probably saved my company. So much for people who scoff that poetry doesn’t have its applications. That it has no place in the practical world.”
Rightly put, Uche.
Thanks for this post–for its implications for/in all of our lives, I believe.
You’re welcome. Last week, I kept thinking back to July, and the post pretty much demanded to be written, if I can say so without seeming precious. It was a remarkable month.
“It’s a lesson that might be worth contemplating more broadly, living as we are in times perhaps too clogged with sharp-edged pieces of hard economic reality, while too bare of the soft, protective lining of poetry and her sister arts.”
Gorgeous important pragmatic thought, indeed, Uche.
Wonderful to read about the freeingness of your writing for Heather Fowler’s July poetry workshop.
I do cringe a bit at the W word, but then again, I should worry less about the label than about the effect. Thanks.