SCRO (II)

Right so where were we. SCRO will have a life as ink on paper, another as light in the air. That’s what I imagine right now anyway. Both start from a shaken aasemic journal page like this.

Page 3 600
Click to zoom in and wander about.

The black wavy areas are my fingers (to the left) and wrists (to the right) where they press the paper to the glass. (“Are”?) This one came out unusually white on the left because of how afternoon sunlight had soaked my study just then. The checker pattern on the right’s what my scanner does with a grey that hovers, to its this-or-that B&W mind, discomfitingly between.

The first one to come out white like this was a shock. Shitty shit, I thought, I just got this toner cartridge, I hate going to Office Depot. Then I waited for a cloud, tried again, the scan came out black, I thought aha, oho.

I’d already planned 24 pages, for dailiness, the quotidian, now I saw I needed to do the pages one an hour over the course of a single day. When a learned a week or two later about the Poetry Marathon, I knew what day it would be.


The printed form, if I can find a chapbook publisher willing and able to take this on, will be a continuous scroll of these pages, looking something like this.

photo 1 (4)
The page above, in situ.
photo 2 (3)
And a bit more in situ.

Just a mockup, assembled by X-acto knife and scotch tape …

I’ll be starting at 6 am, around sunrise. If the day’s sunny, I should get the brightest backings in mid-afternoon, when my south and west windows take in the sun. From there it will go, as the poet said, into the dark.


The other life I imagine for this – patterns of dark and light cast on a wall.

I opened up iMovie, thinking I’d mess around there for a bit, then learn some real video editing software. But as I hit the program’s limitations, I started to feel they were a help to me – limits I could make constraints on the poem. Plus, holding myself to ordinary means (Sharpie, home-office photocopier, iPhone voice-notes app) suits this project, which is all about nothing special.

Working quickly, not deliberating much, I cropped some 16:9 stills from the page I’d scanned. (At 1200 dpi, the highest res I can. Some kinds of data loss I love. Not pixellation. And if I want these images on the big screen one day.) Here are a few.

Some grabbed me because their language did what it meant.Page 3 detail 1

 

Here I love Mr. Moustachio. The back-and-forth between him and “angry” feels equally weighted. And the horizontal distortion bar pleases me.

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This might be my favourite. A leaf beetle bearing or born of the word “leaf.”

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This one’s mostly abstract – I’m keen on the way markings call our language faculty into play without allowing it to resolve in a determinate meaning – but “city” resonated well with the audio clip I had by this point found.

Page 3 detail 17


Cuz I’d also begun grabbing clips of ambient sound with my iPhone’s voice-notes app. At first thought I was just practicing for when I could borrow real recording gear. But after a few test clips I found the homemadeness of the sound suited me just fine. Also the sounds of me recording or abiding – shifting in my seat, clinking my coffee cup on the tile coaster.

The audio for the clip I posted yesterday – chainsaw crew next door taking out my neighbour’s lilac, in preparation for raising a new fence – me closing my study window – clink of said coffee cup.


How to put it together? It’s about letting the accidents in – patterns not of my choosing. Including patterns I inherit, my father’s karma, my father’s genes. (Not my choosing or his.) Each page of the scroll takes about a minute to read aloud and I know I might want, in some iterations, to read the poem aloud in company of the moving images.

First decision, each of 24 passages gets a minute each.

So I’m in the realm of number, 24 passages, 60 seconds each. If each still is Phoenician, in a wildering course that never travels wholly out of view of phonetic charactery, for their sequencing in time I’ll go to Babylon, where our minutes and seconds, our degrees and zodiacal houses come from.

I did some reading about 60. It’s a cool number. A unitary perfect number, one of only five known, being the sum of its unitary divisors. A highly composite number, having more factors than any smaller number. An abundant number, the sum of its divisors greater than itself.

Count the joints on the fingers of one hand, once through, thumb doing the counting, you get 12 – that’s a day. Do it with both hands – that’s 24, a day and a night. Do it five times, you get 60. So much for the inevitability of base 10 systems.

Sixty also has a sweet number of factors: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, 60.

Decided, each clip will be x seconds long, where x is one of the first ten divisors of 60, randomly generated.

If x yields a sum longer than 60 seconds, discard and generate a new x (as in darts when you’re playing to 300). So clips will tend to accelerate at the end. Whoosh.


The results for x in this clip

were 5, 20, 12, 5, 3, 2, 3, 3, 1, 1, 5. I got to decide what clips in what order. Also how slow or quick the transition between two clips. One set I set in motion.

Overlaid the soundtrack with no effort to coordinate it to the clips. That the window slides closed just as one black blade glides over another is just good luck.

That so many things are tuned to their neighbours – without any assertion on my part – seems to me more than luck.


One more for ya, different page, sprocket hole study.

If you’ve made it this far. The cross-fade and the “Ken Burns effect” in iMovie can both be cheesy very easily. Have I avoided cheese entirely? Comments section, be honest, I need to know. And thank you for reading.

SCRO (I)

For a few months now I’ve been laying the groundwork for a new project called SCRO. In a couple of weeks, over a 24 hour span and in the company of a few hundred other poets around the globe (see here), I’m going to generate the images and sounds for the poem actual.

I thought, while I wait for that day – the base text is written and the process mostly set – I’d tell you about the scheme and share a few bits of the mockup.


The base text is 24 pages of journal writing, reworked and streamlined, begun shortly after a visit to my father in California. The visit stirred feelings, worries, memories. Maybe because I was writing in my house, for which my dad helped me secure the loan, the ground of the poem became this house.

Vallette House

The illegibility – you’ll see what I mean – is for how hard it is to get another person. Also for how hard it is to get yourself. Also for my fear my father is slipping away, his mind, to a place where he’s not to be reachable.

Here’s the third page, before any funny business.

Page 3 base text

I rework the writing a bit, streamline it, but try to preserve the blushful emotional directness. This one’s not so exposing, but later ones, oh yes. I want to work with the language I speak in when I’m speaking just to me and maybe in difficulty. I’m interested in dailiness, inner sounds, outer sounds.


I want to bring the banal into the lyric in way that doesn’t sink my practice but ballasts it. I know some of the known ways: irony and pastiche in written lyric, cadence and insistence in spoken word. But those don’t come to me so natural. So I’m stumbling towards a chimerical way with proprioceptive foreparts and digital hindquarters.

Dude, obscure. I take the page and shiver it on the photocopier in the corner of my study. My gesture, slow, fast, does something to the scripture; the scan bar, turning strokes and loops by light to bits, does something to it en même temps

I scan that on black-and-white to further the data loss and get


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What I’ve called aasemic writing and have written of here.


SCRO as a truncated form of scroll – the form I want it to take. Also escrow – a debt that binds me to my father. Both from a Germanic root meaning shred.

Only later did I realize the sound-cluster calls to mind scrotum. Hello hidden mind (u stinking bastard). That’s what this scroll book is though. Query into the broken unbroken ties between me and my dad that manhood are.


This post’ll need to be in 2 parts. Gotta grill me some chicken and torrent some Mr. Robot. Just quick, I’m looking at two final objects – a scroll I hope I can find some chapbook press willing to fashion, and an audio-video thing I imagine installed big on a gallery wall. Here’s a foretaste:

 

Hillary Be Hillary

Okay. She’s got me. Was always going to vote for her, I’m not a Bernie die-hard, and the stakes are ginormous. But she’s won me over to semi-fandom.

I’ve always sensed and disliked a falsity in Clinton. Now I think it’s just, she’s not a natural orator, and has to work in the shadows of the last two Dem prezzies, who both are. She often seems to be mouthing the right words with a bit too much feeling, or a bit too little, or a little soon or a little late, or just off somehow.

When I get that sense from someone, I worry they’re putting something over on me. Also I’m a word person who treasures ease in language.

Never thought she was lying, or crooked, never gave a flying eff about the e-mails, but thought she was slippery, with less skill at it than Bill.

Now I think she’s a private person forced, for this part, to be public. Seeing Chelsea Clinton, who seems the same way, was illuminating. (Her laugh – nervous, compensatory, I felt for her.) So were the kitchen-table parts of the bio-pic, where she was so at ease. They humanized her for me just as they were meant to. Colour me, Morgan, manipulable.

And, as her speech went on, and she got into the policy deets and the digs at Trump, she seemed to lose her self-consciousness and get her truth on, which was fierce. I’d be just fine with that person leading me.

If that one’s not always on-line when at a podium, okay. A presidency’s not a podium, and authentic’s not a show.

Kinda hawkish for me, still. But even Obama turned out to be. And you can’t always get, according to the RNC soundtrack, what you want.


This one’s everywhere I’m sure by now –

A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

Her heart was in that. When she owns her truth, her ferocity, there’s no gainsaying it. When she second-guesses, there’s that falsity. (Why a woman of her time and nation might second-guess her own anger and instincts – a different post.)

And in that falsity she becomes a screen for our projections. Progressives who’ve hewn to Bernie read the falsity as (for example) a dismal capitulation to corporate interests. Republicans with an authoritarian bent (read this) see her as the rotten apple that rots the barrel. Those most keen to see the last glass ceiling smashed may read it as just the cost of entering, as a woman, this patriarchal political world.

Really maybe all it is, is discomfort being public, when you’re more private than that? I don’t know. I’m better being myself in front of a crowd of 75 than she is before a crowd of 30,000. Not much for a comparison. Maybe I should run for president? Not.

But I’m suggesting she’s become a screen for our projections – hopeful or ecstatic, indignant or hateful – just as Trump has.

But this difference. Trump feeds the projection, thrives on it, exists for and by it. Clinton abides it, waits for it to subside, so we can talk. (Obama’s way too.)

He is us

President Obama, may blessings rain down on him, slipped this one in quiet.

Anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.

Quiet like a stiletto.

Don’t remember if it was before or after he got me crying by describing a schoolgirl’s drawing of a purple and green owl hanging in his office. She was shot at Newtown. He made his point there pretty good, too.

But the other point. Trump’s a threat of the same sort as Hitler, Stalin, ISIS – don’t be fooled by my rosy vision of American multiplicity, which I do believe, and it is under threat. But if I shout threat! too straitly, I’m doing what he does.

Luckily, he commands not only nuclear codes, but subtext, i.e. complexity.


He’s a great man. If he has been a good, not a great, president, it may be conditions to blame, not him. So it seems to unhistorical me. He stepped into crises not quite acute enough to make his enemies allies, but enough to consume most or all of his care. And his election excited racial and cultural enmities that are to be worked through on a scale not to be measured in election cycles.

Worked through at all? Sometimes I despair of it. The hate on parade at the RNC had me in tears. It had me thinking, there’s too much hate here. I believe a multiracial multipolar acentric amiable comity is possible; I like to call it Canada. But I sometimes despair of whether it’s possible here.

Tonight though, moved by him – even with all the Hollywoodery I am moved by him – I do believe it.


In the days after the RNC, which I could not help but watch at least bits of, I felt helpless. I said to me, just check your inner Trump, that you can do. The easy thing’s to demonize, make him other, nothing-to-do-with-me, but that itself’s a Trump move, and then you’ve already lost.

So I made it a practice, and it wasn’t hard to, after all that hate I wanted to be peaceable. Whatever in me reminded me of Trump, I tried to say “be at peace” to. Little e.g., I was in a bad mood that morning, because my body hurt, and got irritated that someone in the grocery store cut me off with her cart. Could have darted a mean glance. Instead, checked inside, and found I’d rather let it go, and come to rest.

But it’s important to me to say, there’s plenty in me that reminds me of him. Selfishness. Grandiosity. Impatience. Insatiable need for praise. I keep them in check, he doesn’t, that’s an important difference, of course. But still.

The Republicans have become the party of projection and rejection. And now they’ve nominated someone so extreme, so ludicrous, in both those respects, it’s easy for us to reject him and project upon him in our turn. 

If we don’t acknowledge there’s some of us in him, some of him in us – we doom ourselves to being governed by him, at least inly.

Or am I wrong? Is that only me? I don’t know. I feel like I’m barely escaping a grave error, while living in a nation barely escaping, maybe, a grave error.


The image up top is a bumper sticker on a pickup truck seen in the Home Depot parking lot the morning after Trump’s speech at the RNC.

You can read it, right? Take a second to consider how you can read it – how you can so easily get from four abstract shapes to a word.

It’s because you do complexity.

Thought experiments

One.

Say Donald Drumpf wins the presidency. (He might.)

And say American democracy doesn’t survive the insult. (It might not.)

What comes next?


Two.

End to all climate accords? (Bad.)

End to the pax Americana? (Bad-good-bad.)

Mass deportations, end to free speech, guns on every corner, people of colour herded into, what’ll they call them, “protective enclaves”? (Bad-bad-bad-bad.)

Rise of Canada, under inevitable climate transformations and enlightened global leadership of an incipient Trudeau monarchy? (Good-bad-ish.)

A regional nuclear exchange, accidental or no? (Bad-bad-bad.)


Three.

Don’t like Clinton. Gotta be honest. Huge Obama fan, moderate Sanders fan, would have got on Biden’s wagon. Clinton grates me and I don’t give a flying fuck about the e-mails. (After those years of intrusion? I’d give as little of the truth as I could, for as long as I could, too.) Just don’t like chameleons.

But mostly, maybe 3/4, I like where she stands – now that she stands there – and the choice we got, seems to me, is between a bee-sting and apocalypse.

I watched his nomination speech. Didn’t want to, but I said to me, later this will be history having happened, you watch it. And it was, no exag, fascism.

Expect to find myself, notwithstanding a fat teaching load and renewed job search, pounding the pavement on Clinton’s behalf this fall.

Likeminded friends – please let’s make a Drumpf presidency not happen.

Heather for president

I find this paragraph beautiful:

Whenever Heather entered a patient’s home for the first time, she knew that she was walking into a long, long, complicated story that she understood nothing about, a story that was just then reaching its final crisis. She was extra alert on those first visits, extra careful, trying to figure out what was going on – the conflicts and rivalries between members of the family, tension over who wasn’t doing enough, who was doing too much, unresolved bitterness, and nearly always grief and anxiety and fretting about how to take care of the patient and what to do.

–Larissa MacFarquhar, “The Threshold”

It’s about being a hospice nurse, but dial down the stakes some, and it’s what it feels like to enter a classroom, not knowing what the nexus of needs is, but knowing there is one, feeling the strands of the web of it stretch against you, each step you take. Binding you into it and yielding to you its intelligences.

Broaden the scope of it some, and it’s just the alertness evidently massively lacking at the helm of a certain rightish party, even more than uge.

See these two beautiful women –

New Yorker - MacFarquhar
Heather Meyerend examining Mary, 92, at her home in Brooklyn, Sept. 2015. The article.

I’m afraid of dying alone. Oh yes I am. Has nothing to do with this, except a presidential candidate unable to self-inquire? has no right to ask the time of us.

Maybe I’m a sucker for charisma. But I’d vote for Heather Meyerend over any of the fools who’ve been on parade this dismal season, yes Sanderistas even yours, on the basis of what I’ve read about her so far, and seen in her eyes. Which I can’t see, but her body’s eyes, Avalokitesvara’s.