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November 26, 2007


Over break I took pictures recording instances of illuminatinon. This is a continuning project for me, and as soon as I figure out an appropriate way to post these pictures, I will. Not all are pictures, some are written as well.

Meanwhile, I will briefly discuss my experience with the illumination survey last week. Four out of five people had an illuminating moment the same day I gave the survey. Moments of illumination ranged from figuring out the meaning of a song to hearing old stories, and remembering things from the past. I then provided a few lines of poetry and asked if they were illuminated by them. The excerpt was from the Nye poem I posted a few weeks ago:

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Three out of five people found these lines illuminating. For those who wrote "no," no explanation was provided. Ironically, this was the case for those who wrote "yes," as well. Instead of an explanation, people underlined parts of the poem that they found particularly interesting or moving. All underlined different parts. It seems that there is something about this poem that is so ordinary, but because it is so profound in an unusual kind of way, it becomes difficult to express why it may be illuminating.

Posted by pbali at 12:42 AM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2007

"Allegorica: A Videodance Vaudeville in Nine Acts"

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see U-M dance prof's, Peter Sparling, "Allegorica: A Videodance Vaudeville in Nine Acts." The installation is in the Digital Media Commons in the Duderstadt and will be there until this saturday, November 17th. All nine acts are improvised and projected onto five screens which contain mapped sequences of themes pertaining to the human condition. Greed, physical suffering, and lost love are only a few. Images are fragmented, sometimes overlapping. Illuminated objects incorporated in the filmed acts are placed in the middle of the room for audience members to explore as the video sequence plays.

Posted by pbali at 10:47 PM | Comments (1)

November 12, 2007

Elizabeth Bishop Poems

Seeing “The Fish” displayed in these two alternative forms has reinforced the importance of the visual representation of a poem for me. The spatial arrangement of words can almost alter the meaning of a poem or lend it a different perspective. When greater space is left between words and after certain lines, a stronger emphasis is put on this certain part of the poem. These spaces become visual pauses, and it is as if the author is giving the reader a much needed moment to interpret the line. They are signals for the reader to interact with the poem in a way that they normally wouldn’t have had there been no line break.

These pauses become more evident when the poem is read aloud. To hear the pace of the poem means to re-interpret it. It creates a new medium through which we can move through the poem. For instance, in the second arrangement of “The Fish,” words are scattered throughout the page, and our eyes move from the very left, sometimes stopping in the middle, and then end at the right. This unpredictable flow reminded me of the movement of water, perhaps relevant to the fish in the poem.

In Bishop’s “Sestina,” the words “house,” “grandmother,” “child,” “stove,” “almanac,” and “tears” are each utilized at the end of every line. These are the six words that repeat in a circular pattern for six lines of each of the six stanzas, except for the last one. This idea of tears that the grandmother is trying to hide is revealed in the way the rain falls on the house, the way the tea kettle releases tears on the stove, the way the grandmother’s tea cup is filled with “dark brown tears,” and the picture the child draws of the man with buttons resembling tears. All of these things are seen through the eyes of the child in the poem, who can obviously sense the grandmother’s own tears. The repetition of these words gives multiple identities to each of the words. In each of the stanzas, their uses change and a range of meaning can be detected. For instance, the grandmother goes from sitting by a stove and a child, to crying tears, to hearing rain beating down on the house like tears, and then back to sitting by a stove—only this time, she is singing to it, which is what the iron kettle was initially doing on the stove. It is as if she is back to where she started, only she is doing something new and something has changed. We are back at a moment with the grandmother and stove, yet circumstances have changed and something new has been included on the map of this sestina.

Posted by pbali at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

November 05, 2007

Animated Poems

"Forgetfullness" and "The Dead," by Billy Collins, have been recreated into video poems. The first captures the meaning of growing old and maps instances of lost memory. The second maps the places and moments in which the dead are in contact with the living.

Posted by pbali at 12:58 AM | Comments (1)

So much depends: a poem for William Carlos Williams

So much depends

An examination
Soaked in optimal consumption and production

On a rainy
Thursday evening.

Posted by pbali at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)