Friday, September 29, 2006

And How About My Website?

OK, now I'm getting a little obsessive.

But leading the website hit parade is not Opus 40, oddly enough, but "stackolee poem," which got three hits, all from Memphis State University, and the Memphis student do stick around for over three minutes -- long enough to follow the link to Anny Ballardini's page and read the poem.

opus 40 comes in second -- actually tied for first with 3 hits, but way ahead on time -- someone from New Jersey, credited with over 22 hours dallying on my site. Musta fallen alseep...?

Next "Ozymandias," and the Shelley lover from Indonesia, searching for images of Ozzy, spent 20 seconds on me, which is long enough to look at a picture.

"tad richards poetry" -- that has to be me, doesn't it? So you'd think whoever did that search would actually spend some time looking at the poems, but no. Zero seconds. This is that Reston, Virginia address that keeps accessing my websites - probably some sort of data mining tool.

"poetry portraits" -- I know people do access the poetry portraits page from time to time, but this guy from Groningen in the Netherlands apparently didn't find what he was looking for.

Other intriguing hits that added up to nothing: "poems about moles" and "hanging judge stories from appalachia."

Who could have been looking for "richard hale curtis," one of my more obscure pseudonyms? Probably a genealogist.

"mole richards" makes equipment for theatrical lighting. Who knew?

OK, Who Else Reads This Blog?

After Opus 40 and Microsoft Paint art, we have:

    Bly Richards

  • Someone looking for Robert Bly and me? That can't be. And apparently, it wasn't. Both "Bly Richards" hits (one from Virginia and one from Florida) stayed on my site for zero seconds.

  • What could they have actually been looking for? Aha! Actually I'm fourth on the "Bly Richards" Google page, but the first three belong to a dancer named Bly Richards, "the winner of the reality dance show Bump'n'Grind II which aired on Trouble TV in May, 2006." Bly's measurements are listed as 34-30-32, and she wears a size 8 shoe. Wait... Bly's a he. But you gotta figure he can bump and grind.

    Nude wives

  • With all the nude wife sites out there, they ended up on my blog? Has to have been a mistake, and sure enough, it is. Zero seconds. The weird thing is, there are two "Nude Wives" hits in two consecutive days, both from British Columbia. Did the guy forget what a washout I was the first day?

  • I'm on page 2 of Google's search.

    if i had a girl and she dance
  • This goes to my post about square dancing at Wilgus's. I'm guessing I have a shot at this one...the person really was looking for an old square dance call?

  • Nope. Another zero seconds. What could this searcher actually have been looking for? It's hard to figure it out, but the most popular result seems to be an altogether different song lyric, probably not square danced to all that much:

  • If I had a girl and she was mine I'd paint her tits with iodine...

    what does memories of west street and lepke poetry mean?

  • Zero seconds, and although it would be nice if someone would stop and read me for at least a second or two, I'm just as glad not to be lingered over here, by some guy who can't figure out what "Memories of West Street and Lepke" is all about, and wants someone else to write his paper for him. "What does poem X mean?" is the wrong question, anyway.

    Famous poems about first kiss

  • I guess my student's wasn't famous enough. Or maybe this searcher didn't like poems with bats in them. But it was better than this one, from near the top of the list: "For each moment which passes, I will forever remember the first kiss, the first time our lips touched and ..."

    the plantation by george mcneill
  • No seconds. This person was probably looking for the book, and more power to old friend George deserves to be read.

    subtle power of language
  • seconds. You'd think someone would want to find out what I thought about the subtle power of language.

So...does anyone ever read my blog? My visitor's pie chart says 75% no, which means that the glass is one quarter full...25% at least glance at it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Who Reads This Blog?

Or...why? What draws people to it?

I use a service called StatCounter, which gives all sorts of interesting information, like Keyword Analysis. Keyword Analysis tells you what people were looking for, when they found you.

Unsurprisingly, 11 of the 47 keywords tracked were "Opus 40."

After that, with 9 hits, is "blog using microsoft paint computer art." Who knew anyone made searches that specific? Using the "drill down" tool, I discover that this searcher came from Australia. There's someone in Australia who also uses Microsoft Paint for computer art, too.

Also interesting is what else you find when you google "blog using microsoft paint computer art." I'm at the top of the list, right after Microsoft. There's Tom Moody, who does some neat stuff, and who, like me, started out using MSPaintbrush, which no longer exists.

Another blog discusses pixel art, which it defines as "anything drawn in the medium of computer pixels - these are usually created one pixel at a time at small scale to reduce the time taken to create the images." Which I guess is what I do. The blog also praises "The beauty of Pixel Art [for] the clean and unique image they can create," which doesn't describe me...I go for just the opposite effect.

It also says that "Creating Pixel Art seems to be a slow process, mainly in MS Paint, drawing pixel by pixel," which is certainly true.

It also links to another site which offers a tutorial on pixel art, which is fascinating, but not at all relevant to what I do.

So I guess I'm not a pixel artist. Which means I still don't really have a name for what I do. Maybe I should use George Harrison's paradigm:

"What do you call that haircut?"


Well, I've gotten distracted, and lost the "Who Reads This Blog?" thread, but I'll get back to it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Dylan's Frail Flowers

The hot news on the Internet concerns the question of plagiarism and Bob Dylan - the discovery by an Albuquerque disk jockey that some of the lyrics in Dylan's new album, Modern Times, appear to derive from the work of a 19th Century southern oet, Henry Timrod. I probably shouldn't label someone as obscure just because I haven't heard of him, but this log is a Molecentric world, so OK, an obscure poet.

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry, a pretty complete reference book (and one I contributed to, but on 20th Century poets, doesn't have an entry on him and they're pretty exhaustive (and right now, I'd guess, kicking themselves for not including Timrod).

He was better known in his day. Tennyson lauded him as "the poet laureate of the Confederacy."

Anyway, here's the story:

While experts have not directly accused Dylan of plagiarism over the songs on his latest album, Modern Times, which is number one in the US charts, they say there appears to be little doubt that he has liberally "borrowed" from the works of the Confederate poet Henry Timrod.

For instance, the lines in his song "When the Deal Goes Down", in which Dylan sings: "More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours", bear a striking resemblance to lines contained in Timrod's "A Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night", which reads: "A round of precious hours, Oh! Here where in that summer noon I basked, And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers." Elsewhere in the same song, Dylan sings "Where wisdom grows up in strife" - very similar to a line in Timrod's poem "Retirement", which reads: "There is a wisdom that grows up in strife."

Walter Cisco, author of a biography of the poet...said he was certain that Dylan had borrowed from the writer... "It's amazing. There is no question that is where it came from. It's too much to be a coincidence. I'm just delighted that Timrod is getting some recognition."

Plagiarism? I'd be hard pressed to say yes, though it raises some interesting questions.

I've stolen larger chunks than the ones Dylan took from Timnrod to put into poems, but they weren't from other poems.

Here's one:


They used to practice cannibalism, until
they went away from the river
when the colonists came. It’s said
they have some power over the crocodiles.

But since they pulled back, humans are scarce,
reptiles live in trees. Oh, you’ll still hear
the odd story – a child crunch’d, a maiden bathing
surprised by one, two, three, shuffling from the bank.

Mostly, though, things change. You lose the taste
for long pig, and make a virtue of it.
Crocodiles, neglected, no longer smile for you.
Their memory is ancient, but shallow.

The entire first stanza of that comes from a Johnny Weissmuller "Jungle Jim" movie, watched on TV one Saturday morning. I heard that line, grabbed the nearest envelope I could find, and wrote it down, knowing that it had some power over me, though I didn't know what. But that's "found poetry," finding the poetic in something that wasn't meant to be poetic. Dylan is finding the poetic in something that was meant to be poetic.

The great blues composers, like Robert Johnson and Leadbelly, borrowed all the time from earlier songs -- it was an accepted practice. I've heard Leadbelly criticized because "Goodnight Irene" was -- in the critic's view -- essentially a rewrite of a sentimental 19th century lyric. And I've seen the poem in question, not that I could find it right now. It's terrible, and "Goodnight Irene" is a masterpiece.

Christopher Ricks, author of “Dylan’s Visions of Sin,” a book I liked,
saidto the NY Times,

I may be too inclined to defend, but I do think it’s characteristic of great artists and songsters to immediately draw on their predecessors.” He added that it was atypical for popular musicians to acknowledge their influences.

Mr. Ricks said that one important distinguishing factor between plagiarism and allusion, which is common among poets and songwriters, is that “plagiarism wants you not to know the original, whereas allusion wants you to know.”

“When Eliot says, ‘No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be’ — to have a line ending ‘to be’ when the most famous line uttered by Hamlet is ‘to be or not to be’ — then part of the fun and illumination in the Eliot poem is that you should know it,” he said. But he added: “I don’t think Dylan is alluding to Timrod. I don’t think people can say that you’re meant to know that it’s Timrod.”

I probably shouldn't quote from myself twice in the same blog entry, but this is maybe relevant in a different way. It's a -- not exactly a translation, because I was translating a memory of something I hadn't read in thirty years.


‑‑adapted from the memory of a poem by
Jacques Prevert, read 30 years earlier

There's a story about a painter
of reality in the South of France
or one of those islands
like Ibiz or Majorca
where the sun's ego runs wild
and color is a riot
of civil disobedience

In front of this painter is an apple
on a white plate
on a window sill
the color the sun decreed
the painter of reality
addresses the apple sternly
orders it to reveal
its external core

But the apple spins
in its molecules
prismatic to the sun's reality
hermetic to the painter
of reality

He breaks for lunch
bread and cheese
white wine
a boiled potato
leaving the apple
to reflect on its self‑absorption

At just that time
along comes Picasso
a spectral swirl
a many‑hued presence
always where he's needed

And Picasso eats the apple
and the apple says thanks
and Picasso walks down to the ocean
leaving a shower of seeds
strewn across the plate

Prevert had the painter, and the apple, and Picasso, and the apple thanking Picasso for eating it; I'm not sure how much else. I credited him in my epigraph, but my poem was later set to music and recorded by Fred Koller (here's the song), and he didn't include the epigraph. I don't know if the frail flowers are going to be thanking Dylan, but I don't think they'll be cursing him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lying Still Like Stones or Wool

Here are two versions of a powerful poem by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda -- the first by Robert Bly, the second by Ben Belitt. I use the two translations as an exercise to discuss the potential of poetic language.

What I try to get at in class is not so much which one is better, but how Belitt and Bly have written two completely different poems, and how quickly they veer away from each other. By the end of the first line, they're already as different as night and day. Bly declares total hopelessness, total nihilism, whereas Belitt may be tired of being a man, but he holds out a hope of transcendence of his "just a man" state.

That difference is continued and magnified as the two poems continue into the second stanza. Bly wants nothing less than total annihilation -- not death, but the elimination of any connection to life or humanity -- to lie still like stones or wool. Belitt can be rejuvenated by a little vacation from things. And the mundane things that tie us to the life of human society -- Bly wants only not to see them. Belitt's not so total in his rejection -- he'd just rather not look at them.

So the violent fantasy that's Bly's only connection to life is less than that for Belitt. It's part of his vacation -- Violent Fantasyland.

Bly doesn't want to go on being sentient. For him, being alive is like being a root in the dark. The life of the senses is shivering with sleep in the moist guts of the earth.

For Belitt, that kind of sentience isn't the sum total of life, just of the kind of life that he no longer wants to have.

And finally, Bly comes to a kind of accomodation with life. He accepts total nihilism, and he can stroll serenely through it. Belitt strolls through it too, but playing it cool, still looking for an out -- that presumably, by playing it cool, one should be able to find.

So there you have it. How much more different can two poems be?

Personally, I like the uncompromising nihilism of Bly's version. My class this week was evenly divided, and there's no right or wrong choice. But mostly, I love how the comparison illustrates the subtle power of language.

Why do we have language? What's the advantage of it as a system of communication? Language allows us to distinguish between things. Written language, with its complexity, allows us to make more complex distinctions. And the language of poetry allows us to make distinctions that are at once subtle and immense.

Here is Neruda's original.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Still Love Baseball

I'm just trying out creating a link to an mp3 file, which is not exactly complicated code, but I'd never gotten around to doing it before.

As a Mets fan, I should be embarrassed about writing a pro-Braves song, and I am, slightly, but I did write it with an audience in mind, namely the country music audience, so I set it in the South. Anyway, I'm not embarrassed by the song, which I still like. Here it is:

I Still Love Baseball