The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Haiku-muezzins at dawn


Have you seen the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Tool? Do we have Ruth Lilly’s gift to thank for this? It’s totally awesome: poetry-as-database. Now I want a poetry API. I want poetry data viz.

The tool brought me to some terrific stuff. I love the opening of this poem from Anne Waldman

I was living in San Francisco
My heart was in Manhattan
It made no sense, no reference point
Hearing the sad horns at night,
fragile evocations of female stuff
The 3 tones (the last most resonant)
were like warnings, haiku-muezzins at dawn
The call came in the afternoon
“Frank, is that really you?”

…mostly just for “haiku-muezzins,” which is so, so correct. What kind of brain comes up with haiku-muezzins? Amazing.

I liked this one by August Kleinzahler, too, which is fully continuous and heavily enjambed and therefore unblockquotable. The language is just terrific, though, and Kleinzahler uses the construction “the world entire,” as in:

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

Is there a name for that? The little reversal—”the world entire”? It’s one of my favorite things.

I read Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist recently, which is (on the surface) all about poetry, and I absolutely 100% loved it. I wish there existed the technology to do a quick brain-link so you could feel how much I loved this book. Some things worth noting:

  • It’s very short; you could read it in an evening. I think it would work great on the Kindle, too.
  • Baker’s voice is just something else. I’m a real sucker for this—a strong fluent first-person voice—and his is the best, the most immediately winning, I’ve read in a long time.
  • (Actually: in parts, it reads like a book narrated by Tim.)
  • You actually learn a lot about poetry! At least I did. I guess I didn’t know much to start with, so there was significant upside potential.
  • The Anthologist is part of the 2010 Tournament of Books! Get a head start! Or something?

If we here at Snarkmarket had a vast endowment supplied by some rich heiress, I would name Nicholson Baker our poet laureate, and I would pay him handsomely to write a post or so every week.


Notes on writing (or) The Nicholson Baker Tapes

Over at Kickstarter, I wrote up a few things I learned while writing Annabel Scheme. I will also use this as an excuse to link to this great WSJ round-up of writers’ habits. Nicholson Baker’s routine is almost mystical:

Most days, Nicholson Baker rises at 4 a.m. to write at his home in South Berwick, Maine. Leaving the lights off, he sets his laptop screen to black and the text to gray, so that the darkness is uninterrupted. After a couple of hours of writing in what he calls a dreamlike state, he goes back to bed, then rises at 8:30 to edit his work.

Black screen, gray text! Stay in the dream! Actually, all of Baker’s methods are totally inventive and awesome:

He wrote his first novel, “The Mezzanine,” by dictating to a voice recorder during his commute to work. For his recent novel “The Anthologist,” a first-person narrative by a frustrated poet who’s struggling to write the introduction to a new anthology, he grew out a beard to resemble his character, put on a floppy brown hat, set up a video camera on a tripod and videotaped himself giving poetry lectures.

You know, there’s a surprising amount of voice and transcription in these snippets. For instance, Richard Powers

[…] wrote his last three novels while lying in bed, speaking to a lap-top computer with voice-recognition software.

I need to try this… because it sounds like torture. I think I write very graphically—I think about how words appear, how they’re laid out. Often I’ll consider a sentence and realize the problem is that it just doesn’t look right.

Partially it’s habit, but partially it’s a deeper conviction about how words work on the page. Yeah sure, the natural rhythm of the human voice is great—but when we read, we don’t speak the words in our head. (Most of us don’t.) Words on the page (or the screen) get processed in a different way. It’s faster, flightier, nonlinear. There’s a buffer that’s always looking ahead and looking back, trying to recognize whole chunks of language at a time. All together, it’s very different from listening to someone speak.

So, truth be told, I’m a little suspicious of the writing-by-dictation strategy. Although that doesn’t mean I’m not going to dress up as a character and give fake lectures at some point.