cafenowhere: close-up photo of champagne cork (champagne)
JJ and I received our contributor copies of Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland. I knew Upper Rubber Boot produces good-looking books, but the cover for Sunvault by Likhain is even more gorgeous and vibrant than you'd expect from the press photos.

village built on water with numerous multiple-story buildings graced with vertical and rooftop gardens

"Strandbeest Dreams" is a five-page poem inspired by Theo Jansen's Strandbeests, elegant kinetic artworks that Jansen aims to make self-sufficient and one day release in herds on beaches.

Because humans are not very good at letting creatures exist for their own sake, I imagined any such herds would be pressed into service, perhaps as beach cleaners. From one of our family vacations to a beach of Lake Michigan, I knew there would be plenty of clean-up for 'beests to perform on shores carpeted with zebra mussel shells. 

mounds of zebra and quagga mussel shells washed up on Lake Michigan

JJ has long admired the Strandbeests. When he found out Theo Jansen would be giving a lecture at the University of Iowa, he insisted our family attend. Jansen spoke of the 'beest evolution in a couple of different ways. Strandbeest enthusiasts all over the world download plans and create their own versions of the 'beests, often improving or customizing the designs. This is one mode of evolution. (Our family has actually bought and constructed two mini-Strandbeests, but we followed the instructions as closely as possible.) Another form of evolution is Jansen's pragmatic recycling of damaged, failed, or retired 'beests for parts. Subsequent generations may use the same PVC pipe "bones" or plastic pop bottle "air bladders" as their "ancestors" did.

Our poem posits both methods at work in our imagined Lake Michigan cleaner 'beests. The steward of the 'beests is a Latina scientist with lupus. Initially, the scientist (called The Hands) does not understand the titular 'beest's idiosyncratic malfunctioning, but eventually she applies her own experience of chronic illness to formulate an explanation and possible solution.

text reads "Star-lit, lupus-bit, The Hands reviewed the last few screens of diagnostics" over swirly yellow background

I have a different form of lupus than The Hands, but I'd really been wanting to write about the lengthy road to diagnosis for a host of autoimmune disorders. I also wanted to acknowledge the agony of these often invisible illnesses while honoring the achievements of folks suffering from them. It's not that good comes of the illness, but that we find and create good in SPITE of the illness, often using skills we've developed to cope with our illness. The distinction is fine, but important.

Our poem incorporates Spanish, pseudo-code, and the kind of medical questionnaire I've grown to despise. We were very careful with the formatting of the code, because, even though it's made up, the steps must be precise. If one has any hope of debugging a program (or navigating the health care system, for that matter), one must follow protocol, no matter how arbitrary that protocol may seem. Formatting turned into a big deal for the poem as a whole. Fonts, emphasis, columns and rows...we tried to maximize every inch of the page to reflect transitions in physical space, mental states, between languages and the narratives structured by differently purposed systems. That meant some back-and-forth in the copyediting stage, but publisher Joanne Merriam was very accommodating and conscientious, even when, late in the game, J and I decided we couldn't possibly use the word micron. No, it had to be micronewton.

Obviously, this was an incredibly personal poem for us. And our first poetic collaboration! We hope you enjoy "Strandbeest Dreams" and all the solarpunk speculations that Sunvault has to offer. 

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (writing)
This week I had two poems published!

The first, "Aboard the Transport Tesoro," appears in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 7, alongside work by fellow poets [ profile] mariness and [ profile] sovay. Also, I'm pretty tickled to share a ToC with Yoon Ha Lee, a Sirens guest of honor. By chance I was invited to join him and two other Sirens for a last, con-lagged lunch at the airport. (Hope I didn't get him sick.)

"Aboard the Transport Tesoro" grew from my sickbed thoughts about chronic illness and ancestor worship. I got up and wrote it in the middle of the night, cleaned it up, and sent it out. Quickest turnaround between composition and publication I've ever had!

The second poem, "glass womb," is online at Interfictions. This poem has perhaps my longest turnaround between first draft and publication. It took me a really long time to find the poem's final form. I can't say why exactly, why it never clicked, why I never abandoned it. I think I had to wait for tumblr to be born and show me pictures from the Mütter Museum and the specimen still lifes of Frederik Ruysch.

And that's my good news for the week!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (studying)
Every morning over breakfast, I read aloud to Tweetie. Right now we're between books, so I picked out some poems from an old issue of American Poetry Review, including some really delightful translations by Matthew Rohrer of the Iranian/Persian poet Hafiz. Here's one.

Might as well spend money
on wine instead of new clothes

Might as well pour all the wine on these books

Might as well get drunk in a bar

Might as well pour myself
a tearful glass of fire

Might as well stop dreaming
of heaven, legless

Might as well unlearn
the smell of your hair

   I am old.

Here's another.

I poured out my heart
to her in a letter
I said it was the end of the world

I said my face is wet with tears
and that's my best feature

What a waste of time
How many of the ancients' love poems
actually worked?

...I knew it would be embarrassing
to be seen walking around
outside her apartment

   I went to the bar.

Because Tweetie is learning Japanese, she's aware of the vagaries of translation. Still, we were both stunned to learn that the translator has never read Hafiz in his original language. He's read multiple translations and kind of distilled them into his own version. Rohrer paraphrases another poet, Matthew Zapruder: "translating a poem works, despite all the ways in which it doesn't, because of the way a poem moves. The way the mind in a poem moves. That movement can be translated. So even the Hafiz translations that are 'real'...are translations of the movement of Hafiz's mind, not his music, not all those things poets do that set them apart from their contemporaries."

Much as I enjoy these versions of Hafiz's poetry, I am wary of the erasure of the craftsmanship that "set him apart from his contemporaries," as well as the particulars of his time and place that get brushed aside in pursuit of this more "universal" experience. It is both wonderful to partake of something so familiar in an unexpected place, and distressing to think what is lost to attain that particular strand of familiarity.

But to make another connection, Rohrer's theory of poem/mind movement reminds me a distinction between royal science and nomadic science articulated by Deleuze and Guattari. What they call nomadic science, "uses a hydraulic model, rather than being a theory of solids treating fluids as a special case; ancient atomism is inseparable from flows, and flux is reality itself, or consistency." So, "The model in question is one of becoming and heterogeneity, as opposed to the stable, the eternal, the identical, the constant."

The traditional method of translation, which relies on word substitution and attempts to replicate a form, would be the royal science here. Whereas Rohrer's attempt to recreate the flow of a poem would be the nomadic science. "
One does not represent, one engenders and traverses. This science is characterized less by the absence of equations than by the very different role they play: instead of being good forms absolutely that organize matter, they are “generated” as “forces of thrust” by the material, in a qualitative calculus of the optimum."

I sense also an implication regarding the difference between heritage speakers and those who are fully fluent in a second language, but I don't have the expertise to suss that out.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)
We have returned from our first summer expedition!

We drove out to Arizona and saw the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, where Tweetie earned her first Junior Ranger badge.

Then we drove on to the Grand Canyon and spent three days/two nights in the park, which was SO worth it. We saw condors and mule deer while exploring the South Rim. We watched a sunset. At dinner one night, an elk sauntered up to the restaurant window and started munching on the lawn. Later, on our way to a night-time program in the amphitheater, we walked among a family of chirping mule deer, who crossed the village streets like it was no big whoop. It was hard to concentrate during the program because the star-viewing was aMAzing, but Tweetie learned enough to earn another Junior Ranger badge.

We ventured outside the park to go horseback riding--a longtime dream of Tweetie's--through a ponderosa and piñon forest. My horse was named Sam. I think it was short for "Sam'thing's always irking me."

On the drive back home, we stopped at Meteor Crater, aka Barringer's Crater. To my relief, Tweetie did not say, "Great, Mom, a hole in the ground." (It might've been understandable, after the scale of the Grand Canyon.) She was actually pretty psyched about the crater and told me repeatedly she was so glad we'd stopped there.

As a huge fan of the Pixar movie Cars, Tweetie squealed with glee whenever we ended up on old Route 66, so we enjoyed a few meals on the Mother Road. (Throughout our trip, was an immensely helpful touchstone.)

And then, nearing home, we made a special stop to see [ profile] rose_lemberg and Mati! Having missed Rose so much at WisCon, I was thrilled to hang out with them, and they took us to a great place for dinner. Rose is looking great, y'all. And Mati is a gem.

On the last stretch of the drive home, we pondered questions like "Is infinity odd or even?" And we debated definitions of genre and described our dream genre-combos. JJ also helped me brainstorm for a poetry chapbook all about my personal pantheon of alterna-heroines. So far, I have one poem and six more heroines to profile.

Now that we've mostly caught up on our sleep, we are crossing things off our to-do lists. J is back at work, and I've sent out a couple of poems requested during WisCon. (Sadly, WisCon already feels a world away. I never even got a chance to blog about it! :P ) Tomorrow, we hit the library and stop by the school office to pick up Tweetie's yearbook.

We are off to a running start on our summer, that's for sure!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (studying)
I mistyped the subject line, so it originally said "Stone Telling 6 Is Love." That works, too. :)

This issue, science and science fiction themed, includes my review of Mary Alexandra Agner's poetry collection The Scientific Method, available from Parallel Press

cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)

Thanks to [ profile] asakiyume' s post about shouting into the ears of the dying and [ profile] shadesong sharing this link about evolution and synesthesia, I've come to a new understanding of the weirdest aspect of my recent aphasic episode. What I considered a brain glitch that swapped a nearly kinesthetic experience for the words I wanted, may actually have been my synesthetic tendencies trying to compensate for my lack of words. 

First, look at this beautiful diffusion tensor imaging scan of brain connections, from the National Geographic article:

Now here's the quote that brought about my realization: "We worked with a novelist years ago who swore that her synesthesia helped her pick metaphors...She said she would know what color a word should be even before she knew what the word was."

This is so much like when I could see the physical shape of the paragraph I needed, could feel the rhythm the words should take, could practically hear the cadence of the words, but I couldn't summon the actual words. I think my synesthetic tendencies were trying to compensate for the aphasia. And then, when I almost caught a poem, I felt the same flare of inspiration, but since my verbal centers were blocked, my brain tried to shape the poem in physical space rather than verbal space.

I'm probably not making sense to anyone other than myself, and the differentiation is slight, but it makes me feel much better about my brain. It wasn't so much a brain glitch as my brain's workaround attempt. And so I will feel more kindly toward my brain, and perhaps even try to cultivate the synesthesia so the workaround works better in the future.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (drink me)
An entry that will make no sense to anyone but myself (and my character Heidi, so...yeah, myself). A placeholder of sorts. But you might appreciate the pretty pictures. Especially the drawing of a Melissa Blue butterfly by Vladimir Nabakov.


butterfly scale drawing by Nabokov from NYPL jensen ackles deconstructed in grayscalediagram of the golden mean

lyrics by Pernice Brothers

sometimes it's better not to know,
holding on to something when you should just let go.
true words, spoken in a dream,
swimming to the surface like a last breath, last scream.

push, pull, hurry up and stall,
would you give a little if you can't give it all?
ten years of picking at a seam,
trying to wake the kid, messing up my wet dream.
hey kid, rock and roll, a bulls eye's hung on your soul.

I wish I knew a sure simple way to reach you.
I'd be the king if I could say to you,
"Cut the baby in two..."
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (misunderstood)
Recently I mocked my dreaming self for proposing a story development that my waking self found utterly ridiculous. [ profile] asatomuraki  suggested this in-your-dreams storyline was my subconscious daring to touch the taboo, 'cuz dreaming Lisa is "just that hardcore." Which made me laugh but also made a lot of sense to me, especially because I'd also been feeling the stress from compartmentalizing my work self from my feeling self. (Gosh it's crowded in my head!)

Then,  I read this "Fresh Air" transcript of Terry Gross's interview with neuroscientist and author David Eagleman (link courtesy of [ profile] yourlibrarian ), about the stress we feel from keeping secrets...from ourselves. [emphasis mine]

Eagleman: ...there's a group at UT Austin that's been looking at this for a while. When they have people write down their secrets, even anonymously, or even just in a journal, their stress hormone levels go down. Their number of doctor visits goes down.

So there's a large literature on this, about how bad it is to hold a secret. But I just got interested in thinking: What is a secret, actually? And, you know, it's - because you have competing populations in the brain, if you have one part that wants to tell something and another part that does not want to because of maybe the social consequences of revealing something like this, that's a secret.

If both parts want to tell, then that's just a good story, and if neither part wants to tell, then that's something that's, you know, not terribly interesting...
Of course, the stress comes when one part (or more) wants to tell and another part (or more) doesn't. Which makes the suggestion (from both [ profile] asakiyume and [ profile] asatomuraki ) that maybe I'm in the process of grokking something important, seem all the more logical. 
If the secret turns out to be really big, like Secret of NIMH big, or "Who put the bomp in the bomp-bah bomp-bah bomp" big, I'll be sure to let y'all know.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (boondock saints smoke)

I do not get drunk -- I get awesome


And I would've studied so much more science if it had been written like this:

ATP synthase:
That sexy breakdancing enzyme takes punk ass adenosine diphosphate, which is about as useful to the cell as homeopathy, and turns that fucker into you ask? It fucking headbutts another phosphate right onto that bitch when it twists around. Just stop and think how hardcore this little shit is fuck its like punching a pig so hard you get showered in bacon.
Holy Snapping Duck Shit, It's a Mitochondrion!


That awkward moment when you realize the Snowpocalypse never comes when you want to spend MORE time with your loved ones.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Yummy!)

Zombie Ant Armies, Serving Ophiocordyceps unilateralis for 48 Million Years

Zombie ants are a cinch to wrangle.
They crawl under leaves, bite, and dangle.
From the head of the corpse
the fungus shoots spores
aiming for new ants to mangle.

Seriously, folks. I'm not making this up.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dingo ate my baby crazy)


tear-drinking moth
won't wait for tragedy:
barbed proboscis

Madagascan moth sipping from sleeping bird's eye. Cross-posted to tumblr.



Aug. 11th, 2010 11:25 am
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (neon sign)

like mercury blobs
they struggle to merge
blood + air
inside + out
saturating the border
obliterating this thin membrane
of skin and self

cafenowhere: abby from TV show NCIS, eyes closed, listening to music (abby dreaming)


Fingers tingling,
I caress the air above
my lover.
Magnets in my nails coax moans
past his lip-ring, tease polarities.


The Inspiration )
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
Debbie Reese ([ profile] debreese_nambe ) has critiqued Syd Hoff's classic easy-reader Danny and the Dinosaur (1958). Because I constantly need to perform damage control after others "educate" Tweetie about American Indian tribes ("You know Indians still exist, right? They're not extinct. They are us. We're part Ojibwe.") I found Debbie's analysis particularly valuable. An excerpt:

The University of Michigan took a lot of heat for their decision to remove the dioramas [about American Indians] from their museum. How many of those people, I wonder, remember Danny's visit to the museum? How many of them got their introduction to Indians in museums from the much-loved Danny and the Dinosaur? Is Danny and the Dinosaur in your collection?

The book is not in our collection, although not for this particular reason. We do, however, have a copy of Aliki's My Visit to the Dinosaurs (1969) that has been converted into a spiralbound journal for Tweetie to write and draw in. So far as I can see, there are no Indians behind glass in Aliki's book. Or Tweetie's scribbles.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dingo ate my baby crazy)

bouncing off the walls
with mini mad scientists
homemade flubber

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (cat)

After much shuffling of its schedule, Discovery is expected to launch later today. The official reasons given for the delays have been bad weather and a bad fuel valve, but I suspect the real problem is that the astronauts are attempting to carry a flag for the US Border Patrol into space.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar:  "We are extraordinarily honored to have our organizational banner represent not only the Border Patrol but all the men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection who secure our nation and way of life.  I have personally spoken with Dr. Olivas and conveyed our appreciation for his decision to recognize the Border Patrol by carrying our symbol of honor and dedication beyond the realm of our country's physical borders."

Yes, honor and dedication. Meanwhile, arrests of corrupt border agents are on the rise.

Why would we want to carry this symbol beyond the realm of our country's "physical borders"?

Look out, ET. We don't need no stinking aliens.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)

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