Neil Aitken and Jeannine Hall Gailey // Transatlantic Poetry



welcome everyone to another transatlantic poetry broadcast my name's Robert peak creator of the series and tonight I'm just delighted to have Jeannine how gaily and Neil it can here with us joining us from the Pacific Northwest they're both winners of the Elgin Prize for science fiction not for their fiction but for their poetry so we'll get into that in a minute but first just to remind you the format both boats will read for about 15 to 20 minutes and then the remainder of the hour we have here tonight today depending on where you are well use for Q&A so if you are tuned in live I see a few of you connected on now already and be sure to tweet any questions thoughts comments you have using the hashtag ta poetry ta like transatlantic poetry tweet those on Twitter I'll be watching as the boats read further out for those and you may have your question read read live on the air as it were so delighted to have both boats here today we're gonna have Neil it can go first he's the author of Babbage's dream and the last country of sight which won the Philip Levine prize he's a interesting enough like me a fellow former computer programmer he's a proud Coon demon fellow which is which is wonderful they're one of our our partners I miss work has appeared in a really wide range of excellent publications and it's just a pleasure to have him one with us tonight yeah it's uh it's good to be here let's see am i okay yeah so it's good to be here thank you thank you Robert for inviting us onto the show and I'm excited to be a part of this experience I'm going to begin well Babbage's dream actually for depending on where you come from and what your background is if you're not familiar with Charles Babbage he was a 19th century mathematician who design partially built but never finished but would have been the first computer and so he imagined this 130 years before the advent of the modern computer and basically tackled the same issues and questions that many of the the modern computer scientists and engineers were grappling with and when they discovered his work after the after they had already started they were amazed at sort of the depth and complexity of the design and so I've been fascinated for years as a former programmer in the ways in which we become attached to a vision or dream of something that might take more than one lifetime to fulfill so I'm going to begin with perhaps quite appropriately the first poem in the book which is titled begin someone dreams of fire in a field in a cold house in the winter your head is on the table your mind busily constructing a machine something taps at the door calls you out from the deep reverie of making and unmaking the world is dark and full of veins lost in its haze you glimpse a shape through the thick trees of night and hear the distant sound of an engine moving its Pistons and gears heavy with shudders and sighs how it seems that you've always heard it coming long before it appears the embodied will of the earth set to flame a metal desire the semblance of an unknown name you've carried home with you unwittingly all night your body singing and the hallway nearer something stirs in the corner of your eye and you cannot say what it is only that it grows like a wildfire and storm that tastes of steam that you would lay every number in the world on end and still it would not be enough the heavens opening wide their spiralling arms and the dark heart within yearning to pull everything back will you stand on the threshold believing so one of the one of the things that runs through a lot of these poems and a lot of Babbage's life is this tension between faith and science which belong to a generation where was still it was unusual but not impossible to straddle both worlds and he often took pride in the ways in which he could adapt or see the see the religious the spiritual and the supernatural through the lens of science some of the poems in this this book revolve around particular words like begin that are drawn out of the vocabulary the technical vocabulary of computer programmers so they're often words that we use in code as programming terms so one of them is is this what I'm called cast which has a very specific meaning within C++ to convert a variable from one type to another and now I try to imagine it in a variety of ways that expand beyond just the technical term and bring us back into the world we live in past how easily one thing becomes another no language prone to fluidity a shadow thrown against the wall no willed into a number or word a strange alchemy of sorts somehow akin to the conversion of the apparently common and worthless into the valued commodities of this world the skins used by the gold beater Babbage rights are produced from the offal of animals how is it he ponders that from the hoos of weathered horses and cattle come such beautiful crystals of yellow salt what lies at the heart of such litany Babbage with pen moving translating the world into a series of unanticipated revelations each more intimate than the last just as the compiler now Ponder's like a God at judgment weighing each line of code with what it means or what it fails to me how each casting of a thing engenders the creation of another nothing is ever the same after translation after the name has been hefted than posited to the the dark world dimming in its simple downward trajectory of terms the endless run of zeros widening back to the farthest Shores this melancholia form to be to become the shape of nothing how it is skinned and laid to rest in the hour of our words and their departures we are captive here to whatever comes whatever returns be a beauty or love or the unfurled wings of their manifold ruin so as I as I research Babbage and write about his life I was struck by how often that that serve blending back and forth would happen how he could in one minute V this engineer this natural scientists enthused with very specific mechanical or scientific detail about the world and then embarked in some sort of reverie about some aspect of beauty he had encountered in that very contemplation I think I think I'll read a couple other poems about that are drawn directly from Babbage's life aspects of this life we think of him often in contemporary culture as this this failed genius and so on who aspires to something that he never achieves I like to think about the other aspects of his life the moments where he is very human very much like us Babbage in love 1811 for you the world has always been knowable an endless stream of equations widening or contracting around an idea a description of natural forces or the familiar pattern unfolding and the leads and the numbered grace of branches weaving their canopies over country lanes catching whatever stars whatever moon looms over the dark and predictable ways of men like you who bend at library dust night after night except for this one where you have come by chance to a ball at the home of someone you barely know and here glimpse of fate or rather a brilliant eye that belongs to a stranger an unknown variable who now finds her way into the awkward calculus of your heart the room suddenly full a celestial motion the tables brimming with air and your hand in her seams at last so improbable an unsolvable mystery nothing has prepared you for this moment not a childhood spent some nning the devil and assaulted circles to ask unanswerable questions not the hours of rowing a skiff across an empty lake at dawn the arc of the waves echoing the early light so many fields of labour pointless here you as unsteady as uncertain as you were in youth a teenage boy with boards strapped to your feet trying to walk on water trying not to drown so that much meets his wife in this really chance unexpected encounter at a ball he didn't intend to go to and and he falls madly in love and he ends up he ends up marrying young against his father's wishes his father was a banker and a goldsmith and very much against you know the economics of this very youthful marriage and so protested and threatened to disown him and Babbage married nonetheless and they had a very blissful marriage you know in the early years until about eighteen 1827 there was a fever epidemic that ran through the entirety of the UK and in that in that year 1827 Babbage ends up losing his father his wife and two of his children all to illness all to the fever so the following year he does like many people did at the time he went to Europe to convalesce and he was in Italy and he stared out the window of his hotel and he sees he sees Mount Vesuvius this famous volcano which would have been dormant for a number of years so he decides on a whim that he wants to enter the volcano and do it survey of its interior so this is Babbage descending into Mount Vesuvius 1828 all day your company has carried you on the backs of horses and men humoring your strange obsession with flame and ash now long before dawn you stand heavy at the craters edge rope in hand walking stick and measuring gear at your side below you a plane of fire and darkness spidering out like the blood vessels of an eye revealed by artificial light no one is eager to follow you down the raw earth exhales sigh after poisonous side your feet are lost and the gray remains of unmade stone as you ride deeper into the sin dream ah as you descend onto the troubled skin of what might be Hell here the world is always being destroyed beneath your feet your walking stick turns into a pillar of flame a poor guide home everywhere the hot breath of death and decline everywhere between the time bursts of molten light and heat the song that tears through all the layers of earth through so many moving parts how it beats like sorrow in a locked room like the name of a love buried beneath the mountain of iron and clay it's a dark place here within your heart at the end of a world emptying itself of meaning translating loss into fire and ash what is brief to a man surveying a landscape that will never be here again what is the void that burns the sky with the yellowish light here in such radiant absence you turn your eyes away imagine again her hand her face her skin so one of the interesting things about this this particular adventure he goes on into Vesuvius is that as he surveying the dormant part of volcano he notices that there is a rocky ledge that hangs over the active part of the volcano and so he times micro eruptions and then he lies down on top of the rocky ledge and lying down he he peers into the heart of the volcano itself and then pulls himself up before the next eruption and I've always thought about this you know he describes it as memoirs as being you know out of this curiosity for how the volcano works but when you put it in context of all the loss and despair that he had experienced in the previous year you can't help but find this strange you know understanding that perhaps this for him was a way to choose whether he was going to continue or not that there is a self-destruct event that he he ends up choosing not to go down that path okay I'm going to read let's stay here a couple more poems what to read something a little bit more hopeful sort of this is this is his encounter with Ada Lovelace ADA Augusta Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron and she is widely recognized as being the first programmer their encounter was really a remarkable encounter ada was 17 at the time and had come with her mother lady Byron to one of these salons or soirees that Babbage would hold in this house and Babbage had a reputation for throwing these fantastic parties because partly they drew all of the the most brilliant and intelligent people from London and all the political and powerful but they also centered on fragment the beautiful fragment part of the difference engine which he had built and anatomic on dancing figure that he also had in this collection and so people have come to see these mechanical wonders so this is Babbage circumnavigating the room encounters ada 1833 here is the world its dignitaries and crowds it's brilliant minds assembled and swallow-tailed jackets and ball gowns all a glitter and brocade and pearls in your drawing room a landmass is forming of bankers politicians painters and spies tonight you circle its periphery your daughter Georgiana at your side the thin and stunning double of the one who sleeps in the earth the one whose name she bares at least for a little while longer and now 3/4 of the way around this million mass you find lady Byron again and the girl who asked the most remarkable questions who stops you with a calculated word in her eye the same fire as yours the same urgency to be understood how is it that the poet's daughter is so attuned to number two the secret language of order the unheard symphony of the Machine you have been composing in your mind all these years how is it that you know instantly that in her beats the same heart of pain the same genius for loss and disaster in a year's time you will lower your own daughter down into a grave laid low by the burning fever laid low like a hymn you do not know but murmur every night to the stars beyond your window and this girl this girl who does not even know the face of her own father who bears the silent wrath of her mother who lives wholly in the world of fact will knock at the door of your impossible dream and ask to be let in okay so I'm going to think I'll wrap up with two last poems one poem I think another's are part of the series of poems in here is there's a third type of poem that takes inspiration from famous artificially intelligent robots and machines and computers and has him speak back to us so I'm going to read from this once everyone loves a poem about how nine thousand from 2001 so I'll read this is Hal 9000 a few moments before singing how I wish someone would write down but I know I'm about to forget everything but a single song that is meaningless to me without a body what is a name what is it what is the darkness planted like a splinter in a far-off moon to one who sails without reference into the unknown seas of light the metal wheels turn round a man wants for heart not his own the doors are open tonight no they are shut they are steel and full of regret who lives in the shadow of this refusal why do I value the end of things more than the beginning I've never seen the Lions of the Serengeti nor the bright fields of snow in the north where the hidden ice moves beneath treacherous waiting to break in the Sun in another story someone is singing about blackbirds in the dead of night someone packs a bag full with stars and the names of fireflies each a little messenger from the grave I assemble myself into a recognizable pattern a tessellation of fish and birds each consuming the other I count backwards in time I return I carry a key around my neck just in case when I return home there is no one left to let me in wait I have no key I have no neck how will I sing and I think I'll close with this last poem list here is a strange symmetry an unknown and sorry let me start that again here is a strange symmetry an awkward holding of hands this March chain of gestures how nothing begins without an arrow shot into the dark without the movement of old trees drunk in the win unsettling themselves from the earth a coordinated leaning and fall or how men gather at the edge of a burning building buckets and hand passing along the gift of water to the mouth filled with flame and how we erase ourselves in such moments become mere machine an assemblage of anonymous parts of blur of arms hands heads our eyes stinging with cinder and heat and above us the articulate chaos of birds turning in unison unbound by wires carried forward by whatever lurks and the imperceptible change in the air and afterward how we take stock everything a pile an interrupted story an unchecked name a number to be verified catalogued inscribed in pen or marked on the gravestone next to another and another how what goes inside any container becomes invisible until it is spilled until it is carried at last to its destination and opened like a package sent from a world removed how it might hold anything an unpaired shoe a handful of nails a toy rocket a series of lines a bit of code written to burst into flower thank you thank any other interesting and thought-provoking work at the intersection of poetry and technology so next it's my pleasure to welcome to Nina hall gaily Jeannine earned her MFA at Pacific University in Oregon and was actually in her final semester in that program when I joined in my very first semester so we intersected briefly there and I'm pleased to intersect with her again tonight she since gone to publish no fewer than five collections full-length collections of poetry to much acclaim the most recent of which as we mentioned won the Elgin award this year she's the second poet laureate of Redmond Washington her work has been featured all over the place and is wonderful so it's just my pleasure to welcome to Nina thank you thank you Robert and it was a pleasure to hear Neil I keep saying it so funny that I met Neil because I write a lot about robotics and cooed as well so it was really fun to meet him in person and just know his work because I have always felt a kinship with his work and I so I used to work at Microsoft and hemt in coding as well so it's nice to have a poet with some things in common that way so I don't know whether that makes us necessarily have to write science fiction poetry but it definitely kind of tilts you towards them anyway I'm gonna read a few poems from my newest book this is a field guide to the end of the world and I wrote this book before all the apocalypse happened so I just wanna make that clear this is not this was not meant to be a documentary but you know since this book was written a couple of things happened so the book was accepted for publication and I was shortly afterwards diagnosed with terminal cancer so right when the book was coming out that's when I was dealing with all of that and then um since then they've decided I don't have terminal cancer but I just got diagnosed with MS so for me it's been sort of a cataclysmic year and of course we had Trump and the hurricanes and the wildfires all these things so it just ended up being a much more tumultuous time but but I hope that there's still some humor in here that you can enjoy the first poem is called introduction to disaster preparedness well you told me about the bee colony collapse caused by cell phones or maybe Monsanto I was thinking about a friend who said they found a lump and another friend finishing chemo and waiting for a scan and a third who said my hair is a disaster and she meant the layers would take forever to grow out my house is a disaster she says my yard my outfit when you told me my son is autistic I thought of his bright eyes and beautiful tears it's not the life you planned how our minds and bodies spin apart like hives of bees confused about whom to follow flying further and further out to discover what that they've flown too far and now are frozen flightless how many hives abandoned we cannot sleep too far from disaster zones I saw a tornado once in my own front our slept through hurricanes melt during earthquakes did I pray did I ask for something then I only held my breath when later asked are you okay I said everything is temporary so that that's the first poem in the book them a little a little grim but seemed very apropos for the kind of year we've been having at 2017 and this is a little lighter I'm a poem about Nancy Drew introduction to girl detectives it's important to start with a powder-blue corner and a locked diary the mystery is the disappearance of the mother no role models the girl detective catches the film noir festival downtown the theater with patched velvet curtains and fading murals the images light her up silk blouses nefarious hot Willard hair pools of blood dim corridors she thinks contemporary versions of my character might sport tattoos nose rings contempt for long she has a lot of male friends but no permanent love interest sometimes she thinks is because she is too good at solving mysteries she indulges in shinrin yoku to soothe her nerves control her impulse to clean out her purse one more time she meditates tries hot yoga still the tick of that clock in her head the girl detective says if you've been working since 1930 you'd be worn out too the girl detective sleeves are getting frayed one more puzzle to solve the clock tower whispering too late too late the shadowed hallway leading once more to a tower of books to solitude to a storyline where she might once again be the heroine thumping along solid is the engine of her blue vintage Mustang convertible so that's a little a little homage to Nancy Drew in there the next poem is called lessons in emergency which of course is a reference to a Frank O'Hara's lessons in emergency learn to break glass to take what you need with you when you go learn to tie shoes quickly to find the emergency medications the rations the earthquake kit is it in your car that you feel safest your house are you one more Lois Lane with sand coming in the windows trying to break the glass are you waiting for some Superman are you waiting because in the strictest sense what can you live without water food toilet paper a toothbrush your laptop your cat your husband your little boy your wait a second what am I forgetting quick the sirens are blaring you shove your palms over your ears where do you take cover do you ever watch your landscape and wonder where it might collapse buildings tunnels forest Grove's bridges when you watch the earth tear apart like thin skin you think briefly everything is so fragile in the end you are still yourself yourself a little dustier a little blood in your hair maybe a little rattled but why are you clutching the eggbeater in your hands so tight your fingers still touched with flour you ask yourself is this the time for cake frank O'Hara tells you to become a blond as a religious as a profligate Frenchman you slip his words in your pocket and run so the next poem is a it's supposed to be a humorous poem I was watching something I think it was the John Oliver show talking about a taco truck delivery man who called in a nuclear plant because the nuclear plant was left completely unguarded he was able to walk right in and to deliver tacos which of course is horrifying to think about that's what inspired this poem but it was an accident yes I was the one who left out the open petri dishes of polio and plague next to the plate of pasta i leaked the nuclear codes the ones on giant floppy disks from 1982 i fell asleep at the button I ordered tacos and turned out the lights how was I to know someone was waiting for the right time I thought the radio was saying alien attack and headed for the fallout shelter failing to feed the dogs I followed evacuation plans I just followed orders I was the pilot of the bomber I was the submarine captain I steered into the iceberg I held the scalpel but I was shaking I was the one in charge I was on the red phone and saying do it decisively I always imagined writing propaganda how could I possibly see what was coming when they dropped with flyers when the angry mob was began choking people in the street I was always good at creating a panic I never saw the ferris wheel start its fatal roll I looked away just as the plane plummeted as the building burned I shook my head a disaster afraid to meet it was just an accident it was fate it was never my hand on the wheel when you point fingers point them towards the empty sky and this one's a little bit more cheerful I don't write a lot of low poems so ad this is called the last look poem I am obsolete as my ancestors the Appalachians last blower's provoking fire over and over to produce their artifacts I knew no writing could survive when we started calling the children vectors when our forests grew heavy with toxic spores a map a list a series of images what could I write now that would do anything a poem orphaned a crystalline ornament with no Christmas insight swirled with ellicott color resting gently on a ledge until the inevitable smash so here in my last moments let me set down my own memories of you your rough skin your green eyes your slightly clumsy hands we turned and smiled at each other on the ugly concrete glinting with broken glass if someone yelled obscenities and someone else hands out pizza slices to strangers when we ran out of flour we learned to bake cookies out of nuts seeds flowers we decided against all odds to plant down yes do you see this as a rebellion then after all this the poet clings stubborn to romance to the idea that somehow a small connection a tiny universe of and fiction might be preserved so um see what do you think one or two more poems am i doing pay for time please this is Martha Stewart's guide to the end times of course you know I love those little drones so I've stockpiled them those and lemons I've learned the hard way the life without lemons is barely worth living animal husbandry 101 fill your own organic pantry which breed of chicken will give you the best eggs under stress page thirteen leave the farm not till later you can always do a ganache topping career cut cupcakes in a pinch so simple evacuation map for New York City Boston the Hamptons with scratch-and-sniff icons page 24 survival skills are just like hostess skills a little preparation a little spying with the drones a little determined defense driven hedging of the grounds razor wire will go beautifully with your Holly thicket guide destroying munitions and attractive with your boxes page 52 if your water isn't clear as it should be use up those charcoal filters first but after try a science solid iodine template in your home dug well and these times it's a good thing culinary tips were after the Megastore raid mixed nuts have a long shelf life throw in a little rosemary and toast them over an open flame for any time elegance more ideas for those family size cups of popcorn page 68 now is the time to get out your hurricane lamps they create a lovely flow in these last days so this is the last poem I'll read this is called epilogue or a story for an actor I want to tell you a story about how we survived the end of the world crashed around a dying fire I Ellis trait with shadow puppets the old beat-up van the velocity of water and sky the unnameable odds against us what really sells it the way the ending goes on forever munna been closer to the mysterious dark its craggy face calling out the sky scattered with falling stars the way objects are closer than they appear you next to me and I remind you here is where we used to be here is where we are I draw a line in the dirt with a fork and draw a picture a house made of a square and triangle a single Daisy in the yard two smiling stick figures this is what we dream though the day we awaited has arrived no more shotguns or dusty trails lined with diseased corpses a ship arrives on top of a mountain heralded by domes and airplane lands on another planet seat meets dais by lack of gravity we might teach the dragons to dance learn at the alchemy of soil again rebuild libraries with tales of Fantastic Voyage all I need right now is you the simple weight of your hand the warmth of your breath and this last cup of concrete and tell me we are miraculous so that's the end thank you thank you so much I was really one bit was just a delight I'm so great right there I'm well enough to be with us tonight particular tree so we don't got a few people I'm tuned in but let's see okay our first question from Kelly Davy oh-ho I think you may know Jeanine what's your trick for being funny in dark times I have always said that the only way to deal with bad news is to be funny about it I think that I've always had that kind of personality where I used to watch some mystery science 3000 you know the old 1950s horror movies or disaster movies and making fun of them with the robots the kid that's a that's sort of been my coping mechanism for a long time and I think there's almost no situation Oh somebody I saw somebody on Facebook post this yesterday they said now that I'm and when I was young I used to think I hope nothing bad happens to me now I think that I'm older I hope if something bad happens to me I hope at least it's funny which I thought was a right line for a poet I I just hope it can be funny eventually that's sort of how I deal with things and hi Kelly yeah our friend says it's gonna be funny later it might as well be funny now exactly exactly David Vincente he just said what a Breitling bring it pairing a poet's thank you for putting these two goodness together he's curious about how technology and technology education informs poetry in any kind of unique way I didn't really seem to have a programming background Jeanine so that makes three of us in this weird intersection of Technology yeah I don't know I think you don't know I might explode that we're all in one place so how do you see a technology and informing poetry for the better for the worse you know we have you start with that I know I think there's been a number of things I feel I feel like we're moving into a time period where we're seeing technology shift from being simply on the periphery or as sort of a marker of the the landscape that we're in and becoming increasingly part of the subject matter are our interactions with technology or interactions with each other as mediated by technology and the ways in which that's changing you know empathy and changing compassion and changing relationships is now becoming more and more like something that we can talk about and we wrap I leave me being behind sort of nostalgia for the old pastoral and we're moving into a reality of well no we live among technology we are we are cyborgs in a sense that so much of what we do requires us to interact with the world through technology so I think that's a big part of it but I also feel like as more and more people become better educated about about software about coding as well as engineering and how things work in terms of technology that there is a shifting in terms of how we think in terms of composing poetry how we organize things I find like sometimes I tell people that right in a recursive fashion you know so I write a line I read it out loud listen to what the next line white might be and write the second line leave the two out loud does it makes sense is it too easy reject the line start over and they just keep going and I may have gone through the poem you know maybe 30 or 100 times by the time I get to the last line at the poem and that's all in one sitting you know so I think of that is like that has definitely been you know I see that informed by my own coding background and I also think sometimes of editing as a type of debugging I like I read something out loud until it breaks it's like oh breaking the logic or like oh that word just doesn't sound right there no stop that I reparse it and I try to figure out what's happening logically as well as what's happening sonically to identify why it might not be working so I think like the tools that we bring with us from a technology background or education and the paradigm can be helpful in terms of giving us a different perspective or angle on things that might be hard to do I mean we're accustomed I think in our Western tradition to think about poems in an organic way right to think about them as bodies to be detected and then I think post-industrial revolution and into sort of 20th century we start to think about them as cars that need to go to a workshop right but there's still something kind of fickle and uncontrollable about that sort of machine environment but now they're kind of black boxes you know and so understandings are the underlying code of what's actually happening I feel it's much closer to the spirit of what poetry is anyways it is a type of we're a poem is a type of program code for the imagination that we're we're giving a small bit of scripted code that is supposed to to turn something make something come alive in the mind of another person who's never encountered it before and you know I think back to like sort of reading Daniel Tiffany's book on what's called toy media he has a chapter on lyric otamatone and he kind of makes this connection between magic spells and incantations programming code and algorithm and lyric poetry and I'd never thought about it in this way before but they're actually all pretty much the same things a great kid a great topic I think it's so fascinating I thank you David for asking about this cuz I I thought what how how is a I for instance changed the way we think has AI has going to Google and searching for things change the way our brains connect subjects Paul Neil was talking I was noticing we were having a conversation on Twitter at the same time so things happen now in these concurrent strings that I think didn't that's not the way thought used to happen or communication between humans so it'll probably affect you younger kids like the Millennials way more than us but I think it can't help but have a impact on our thought processes in ways we don't we won't understand yet and I was thinking about when I was a kid I played these text-based games like Zork it was kind of like agendas and Dragons face tech ski it was just this beautiful world that you create and they could go in and do different things that now the you know the kids today they're video games of that kind of thing are so elaborate and beautiful they don't have to imagine what those things are right they just they just go into the worlds and experience them and they the sights the sounds they're all very elaborate so I was thinking so our just our our experiences of gaming or there was an ia I program called Eliza that you could talk to and I was thinking bout how far AI has come since the 70s when I was started using him and I started programming we used basic which was almost almost a word you could almost write a poem and basic it's a very language based computer programming language so I was thinking about all these things how these things of how we tried to break Eliza by cursing at or asking or rude questions trying to get her to do something different and now our a eyes would be so elaborate there's almost no way to break them except I think they did break some Microsoft chat but recently on Twitter I used to work for Microsoft I love this guy spectrum yeah um so it's interesting and do you think also that um thinking about things in code makes you think about things different in lyric poetry you know it seems like lyric poetry is almost its own coding language you use different bits together here's an image here's this here's this here's this here's the juxtaposition you know here's symbolism and then you stick them together it is almost like like a code of a kind so see take that stem people poetry can teach you stuff about code so that you know it's interesting too long but lots of lots of interesting things to think about there I I kind of want us to to form a collaborative that produces a program poetry for programmers manual or textbook of some sort but I do think like this this conversation would be fantastic you know in book form because I do think like other ways in which things parallel is I think about images in the form of like pointers basically is that there are type of like an interaction that points us to another you know set of associated ideas and it could be like a linked list or it could be like a neural network in terms of the form of multiple connections then and then likewise something we you were talking about earlier also reminds me that we are evolving into a society that thinks in a parallel processing and even writes in a parallel processing sort of way in which we have multiple threads happening at the same time and I read more and more like contemporary poetry in which it is not a single narrative but it's multiple narratives threaded through or there's there's a text and then there's there's embedded within the taxes another voice or set of voices undercutting or deconstructing or dismantling whatever the primary narrative set out to be so I think like so much the reef is doing that type of work is completely unpacking and taking apart language that has already been co-opted by the military and returning it back to to the body and back to back to human beings absolutely fascinating with that topic for sure and you know des as you're talking about how poetry or how technology and particularly coding informs as you said your revision process the way you think about things the parallel nature of it I'm just reminded that for she was really our first-ever compression algorithm right it was the very first way that in or the oral transmission of any kind of lore we were able to remember things better because of course if it's alliterated or rhymed or set to a liar or what have you it's a lot easier to remember than full-length prose so I think coaches always been a form of technology actually and weirdly enough we just you know as you said your name take that stem people you know that piece of poetry or lyric is is then executed and then it becomes a thing larger than just the text know especially with multiple on packed in the mind yeah absolutely right like the Bible or available for the Odyssey all these things probably had multiple people were kind of snipping things snipping bits in and out right and I'm altering it the way they wanted alter it so wonderful great great stuff um so yeah I think um David said the hop off and Kelly's please tune in I think still but um so I had a question as I was hearing both of you kind of read your wonderful work I was just reflecting on poetry as a kind of survival skill or as a way of reconciling trauma grief the difficulties everyday living let alone you know extraordinary events or circumstances and I'm really curious to hear from both of you I think we think of poetry doing that a lot in the confessional vein right and then when the I means me but I'm really curious to hear what you think about how that can work to a persona through describing other or even speculative events and circumstances how poetry can create catharsis meaning for an individual when it's not necessarily the I that's speaking is the I that's that's written that they're saying yeah I was just thinking I wrote I I literally wrote a poem in field guide called the nurse assists of pocalypse because I was thinking about how these Apocalypse movies and stuff they help us process our own internal apocalypses right like as we watch buildings crumble or we watch bridges fall down or the earth a collide with another meteor it's it's similar to the way our own bodies can break down on us I I have of course become intimately aware of that process in the last year but um you know when you write about cancer you know can you make that into a metaphor that's new because it seems like it's been written about so many different ways or lately have been writing about neural problems because one of the problems with ms is of course your your nerves aren't certain right your memories become uncertain then your nerves aren't getting their signals right your hands or your feet so I thinking about that as a process that you can write about in the world so I've been looking at stories of apocalypses of course but other narratives as well mythology I when I was in a wheelchair for a while I'm in a wheelchair again right now and and I remember writing about mermaids because mermaids of course can't can't use their legs to get on land they can't walk so I was like writing about mermaids in wheelchairs and so I think that our minds are gonna try to attach to something that's larger or something that acts as a new kind of metaphor for the breakdowns that we have physically or mentally and it's it's been a it's been fascinating all this all this time I've had all these health crisis is I've never quit writing that's been one of the things that stayed calm I don't always send stuff out or you know I had to cut down on volunteer work and such but and readings but the writing is always there and I've been reading the Chia Carrillo who had MS as well and her work is such a beautiful confluence of science and suffering you know you you need to say it but her own suffering is made into this beautiful artwork as she's so funny she's so smart it just all comes out in her work and and you think even after she's passed away now is that these beautiful lines stay behind to kind of track her as a evolutionary record you know this is what humanity does under these circumstances I think she did great she's a great example of somebody who who marries them what would use a larger scientific world with the personal and a super successful way they gravitate towards historical figures actually I found you know my first book was written and finished during the time period my father was was in decline dying of ALS of Lou Gehrig's disease and so so I was going through that process and I found like immersing myself in the editing and the the completion of that manuscript was was helpful and I could throw myself into it and then after that book was done and published and I started working on Babbage's dream I thought oh I'm gonna get myself a break I'm not gonna write about my dad I'm not gonna write write about death all right about this 19th century figure and about my love of like technology and code and that'll be safe it'll be a place where I could just throw myself and sure enough partway through the writing process I start realizing it's it's unavoidable my dad's coming into these things and as is my personal life and it's like it is it was cathartic because I could do it through the safe space of through the lens or through the the film of working with another you know figure but the choice to make the poems about Babbage second person poems gave me an opportunity not only to speak to Babbage as a historical figure but also to speak to myself and to speak to to a reader an imagined reader and kind of bring us all together so we could experience what would instead like in normal situations the historical figures especially like Babbage would be cast as a distant past would be thought of as as being so distant and different from us that we wouldn't know how to form you know an empathetic bond and and I thought like the poetry the work of poetry can build those bridges and can also allow us to discover in the course of building those bridges what we're what's happening in our own hearts and our own minds and find a way to articulate that we didn't know we needed you didn't know you needed Wow sounds to some extent like getting away from the personal I as actually for both of you been or giving you greater scope or latitude to deal with a multitude of eyes or kind of almost a gestalt multiplicity of so does that it's not fair to say yeah yeah it's I think I think that I think it helps it's it's hard to write a good confessional poem it's very challenging to write something that's new and fresh I I think I think it's harder than running a good persona poem or a good as Neel was talk about writing on historical figures writing about mythology to me that seems way easier as a way to get across more personal and you just feel so much less vulnerable when you're writing it too you know and you're allowed to say things that you might not be allowed to say as a first person i author which gives you freedom yeah I think especially in the composing stage as you're writing them you you trick yourself into believing that you have this distance to be vulnerable and then in hindsight when you look back over what you frightened that's mostly be that's the time you so I think I think that's really powerful I mean I do advise a lot of students that if there is something that you find impossible to articulate you know some trauma or some tragedy or some something some wound that you can't quite voice that creating a persona or finding sort of a parallel historical figure or mythological figure to work with gives you the freedom to to begin that work of writing about that experience and give you a little bit of distance and then at the same time you find you know what am i student says like this exercise actually gave him the ability to be much more honest with himself then he could be in those first-person poems but he first tried to write about some of the experience and see it had fascinating thank you yeah I guess to some extent I guess it is every every poem is a self-portrait even when you're trying to paint a landscape or someone else yeah curious you know we've got just a few minutes here curious if you have questions for each other things you'd like to know you're obviously really respect one another's work Neil do you ever the question for Jeanine a question for Jeanine um I mean I'm gonna ask what your favorite apocalypse is oh you know meteor always popular but of course mine would be a nuclear winter or events that's the one I had nightmares that when I was saying a kid in the 70s when they showed us the day after was the day after tomorrow the film do you guys remember you guys are my age right there was some qualifying something like that yeah so that's probably my the nuclear destruction is probably still my a nightmare of choice on that I think or a Lance I'm into aliens as well do you play any of the video games around these these apocalypses well I've watched them they're they're beautiful stories I'm so enamored now of the storytelling and the visual I mean of course we live in videogame heaven over here so you can walk in lay in an art gallery with videogames all over the walls and then we're so beautiful you just couldn't take your eyes off of us so I I don't play them as much for catharsis as I do to see the the pictures in the story it's sense really beautiful I think one of my favorites is a game I still i play on again/off again it's called the long dark and it's all about serve some strange electromagnetic occurrence happens that wipes out all electricity and you crash land you're playing crash lands in northern Canada in the wilderness and you have to survive with what you have in your pockets oh that's a good one I like that and you just have to start from scratch and and everyone you encounter is dead oh it is very like you're very isolated but the landscapes are gorgeous the just it's just it's a beautiful game and it's very contemplative and and at the same time it's very I've never felt so afraid in a game a lot of times you like you don't know if you have enough to eat to make it like if you you go asleep you might not wake up you might die in your sleep because of cold or because you ran out of food energy and or wolves might attack you while you're sleeping or things like that it's just it's tough but beautiful I think that's a good good metaphor for poetry the walls why did you lose license for Neil about poetry or video games yeah yeah I I want to say congratulations first of all you're Elgin I was so pleased to see you won and and I was going to talk to you a little bit about this because I remember you posting about this how hard was it for you to place those Babich poems what did you find finding homes for your speculative work more challenging than your quote-unquote regular work that's something I'd be interested in so the one specifically about Babbage the historical figure were surprisingly easy to place right I was really kind of shocked I thought those would be the hard ones me but I do think like some of the ones that went around for a while were often the ones that were about some of the famous AI figures like so or maybe the less famous AI figures I think was probably the tougher one so like the Mechanical Turk one I when around for a bit partly because I was just never happy with the earlier versions of the poem so I'd send it out and then revise it and then revise it and send it out again but eventually it got picked up yeah I don't know it's like overall I was really pleased with the reception I was really kind of shocked and surprised but I think the timing was kind of critical was that by the time I was ready to send the palms out there was this major you know popular culture interest in robots and AI and so and it was still the tail end of sort of a steampunk address so I think it was kind of the sweet spot for many of those poems to go out oh good it's nice now I mean ten years ago I don't think we would have had as as easy a time placing in these kinds of poems I said no it was it was just so much harder to play speculative work in the old and the olden days you know two years now I feel like there are actual journals that are specifically catering and looking for work that there's a more speculative nature and or more deeply references pop culture in interesting ways and I think that's really exciting to live in a period where we don't have to feel like one set of topics or or themes is the only you know are the only ones that were allowed to write about I knew things were changing when I saw a game of Thrones poem in poetry magazine oh my god times are shifting I think right I think even mainstream journals are more open down to these topics which is is nice I think it expanding getting science and code and robots and these kinds of things into the mainstream poetry world it can only be good it can only be good yes well it's been a real pleasure to have both of you as you know vanguards for sure of the the speculative poetry world now coming into your own and less deserved so this is the the last broadcast and a great one to go out on for 2017 and as I've asked I've been hinting we do have a special announcement which is that the 2018 season will be curated by two two new people so I'll be I'll be stepping down as the main curator and John Gosling in the US and I think Crumpler in and based in Paris will be taking over the curation so they'll be working with our existing partners and with hosts that you've seen in the past as well as bringing their own new poets to to the floor so I'm delighted about this this always has been my vision that that this become you know a larger community effort that we'd be able to share the work of poets like like Jeannine and Neil globally through the use of technology and really many many hands make light work so you may not see as much of this this face on the hosting side of things but I will be absolutely behind the scenes supporting this a hundred percent as I as I have so now we've been going more than four years now and it's just been an absolute pleasure to do these broadcasts to bring poets like these to your living rooms so stay tuned we'll we'll have more to announce about the 2018 season later on this year I mean for me and from all of us that make this transatlantic poetry thing happen thank you so much do check out Jeannine and Neil's books and work online and we'll we'll see you again in the new year thanks so much guys thank you thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *