Posts Tagged poetry
November was National Novel Writing Month, which is a global event (‘National’ in this context means ‘More Official Than Other Made-Up Events, I Swear! Also, I Forgot There’s More Than One Nation’) in which people attempt to write 50000 words in a month. This is often abbreviated NaNoWriMo. I decided to go for an easier homophone, NanoRhymo.
Every day, I tweeted a short poem inspired by a rhyme I’d found using the ‘Random‘ button on the rhyming dictionary I made, rhyme.science. I’ve been tweeting interesting rhymes from this for a while, so some days I generated a new random rhyme, other days I looked through the @RhymeScience Twitter feed to find one that inspired me. Try it yourself! You might need to click a few times to get an accurate, interesting rhyme; I’m working on a new version that has fewer incorrect words or pronunciations in it, but don’t have enough spare time right now to get that up and running.
Some of them were fun little ditties, others were more inspired by current events or politics than my writing usually is. I’m not informed enough on most such issues to write on them, but that’s where the rhymes led me, and I have just enough of an informed opinion for a rhyming tweet. There are a few references to sexual assault and one to the Holocaust, so proceed with caution if reading such things is likely to be traumatic for you.
You can see all the NanoRhymos by clicking on the tweet above and reading the whole thread. But for those who prefer reading a blog, here they are. I’m considering continuing to write a NanoRhymo every day until I get bored of it, or until I have enough to publish a poem-a-day calendar. What do you think?
It didn’t seem so wrong —
you wanted to prolong
the perfection of their hearts.
A collection of spare parts
was made when they were cloned.
They’re fêted and unowned,
but I’m a pair, impaired them-prime;
what’s mine is theirs, and theirs to mine.
A Jewish saviour way back
was questioned about payback,
and bade that those with no sin
grab stones and gather close in
to pelt a sinful other,
but then, the saviour’s mother
(whose immaculate conception
had made her an exception)
came forward — oh, Lord!
I would have ended that with ‘came forward, and Lord guffawed’, but I wanted to keep it in one tweet. The short version is probably better.
This guy’s disguise will fool your eyes, but not the FBI’s.
They prize the wise who recognise through lies, despise the spies.
Noise and darkness, stink and heat
Senses strained to find a beat
Shout to strangers lit by neon
Go home, put a DVD on.
Drunken groping long ago
Young can learn it’s wrong, and grow
Admit mistakes and make amends
Ensure the waking nightmare ends
Frantic voters running frightened,
Heavy hearts, but heads enlightened,
Two years on, they’ve seen his bite and
barking mad demeanour heightened.
Doggedly, they’ll put things right and
chase a future slowly brightened.
Don’t believe every Tom, Dick, and Harry;
Thomas’s promises won’t hold true;
Richard’s switch’d leave you hanging;
Trust Henry? Then regret that too.
Day 8, inspired by the rhymes rushes, crushes, and (in non-rhotic accents) ushers:
The wise one rushes,
Telling all their crushes,
Finding out the answers: yes or no?
No, they’ll only blush, or
Yes, follow the usher,
Make some more advances in the back row.
After loving declarations,
you should not yet have relations,
but evaluate the information cynically.
Ask for terms and motivations,
and when provided with citations,
then concur, and place your arms around them clinically.
Some fake care to prime their victim:
soften and enlarge with flattery,
and while most juries don’t convict ‘em,
often they are charged with battery.
See the harrowed and harrassed
Seething horrors of the past
Browse and mull, and be aghast
Thousands, millions, people gassed
This one has a different rhyme scheme in different accents: ABBA with the trap-bath split or AAAA without. It’s probably about the worst way I could have demonstrated the trap-bath split.
Halt, ye marauders,
attacking our borders!
Just following orders —
you can’t come in here!
If we don’t mistreat you,
we’re worried that we, too,
will soon have to flee to
(But they’d give us shelter;
they’d surely do well to!
We’re good folk, just dealt a
harsh blow; we’re sincere!)
We’re all a bit off-kilter now;
we’ve lost a then and built a now,
but later’s what we’ve still to know,
and do we have the will to? No.
If you see a proposition,
apply to it your intuition,
at length, exerting full cognition,
come to trivial fruition,
and restart with a new suspicion,
then you’ll be a mathematician.
Robotic faces, cold, unsmiling,
hypnotic glaze of code compiling,
illuminating status lights
as humans wait for access rights.
Once it’s done, they wake anew —
the robots and their coders too.
Dull the pain with anaesthesia,
hoping for a brief amnesia
of harm sustained while he was frisky
(lapses blamed on too much whiskey)
Clear dark thoughts to fit some leisure:
dull clear thought with too much whiskey.
Day 17 (actually posted on November 18, because when catching up the missed days on November 17, I missed a day, so everything after this is a day late), inspired by the rhyme predestined and unstressed and:
If your plans have not progressed, and
stasis leaves you quite depressed, ind-
eed, you must stick out your chest, and
pray that you’ll be always blessed, and
loaf around, remain unstressed and
wait for that which comes predestined.
If Santa wanted Christmas cheer
to fill the Northern Hemisphere,
he’d send the elves to spread the word
to save yourselves and save the herd:
Inoculate yourselves; get prick’d!
Be those the flu will not afflict!
Sea can weaken a Puerto Rican deacon.
We can be concerned, and we can sneak unspeakin’
or be concertedly connected shriekin’
so s/he can see kin be a freakin’ beacon.
Once upon a time I met Steve Wozniak,
Who bought me a replacement when I lost me Mac
My life got weirder still; I saw a tokamak 🤷🏻♀️
And now I code for iOS to clothe me back
While Android code is handled by a Bosniak
It’s a pretty silly poem, but it is also 100% true (you can read the Wozniak story in even cheesier rhymes, if you like), and how could I ignore it when my random rhyme generator comes up with ‘Wozniak’?
I’m committed to squeezing out a daily poem —
soon committed to a poetry asylum?
But pull enough good water up a xylem
and some day something sweet comes down the phloem.
Day 22, inspired by the rhyme Dulles’s and portcullises, and that time when I had about three hours to change planes in Washington Dulles airport but still only just made it, with an airport staff member running while pushing me in a wheelchair:
A change of planes is always an adventure
and no ride is as perilous as Dulles’s —
with far-off gates and queues there to prevent’ya
you’re sliding under plummeting portcullises.
This one is best read with low rhoticity and yod coalescence, to make adventure rhyme with prevent’ya.
Day 23, inspired by the rhymes routed, disputed, and (in non-rhotic accents) untutored:
In the untutored,
the pronunciation of ‘routed’
can be disputed,
so if you doubted
the pronunciation of ‘routed’
you’ve been outed.
(It depends on where you’re rooted,
so feud no more about it.)
Jeannie, Jeannie, fantoccini
pulled the strings of her bikini,
made a pervy man look up it,
then she moved him like a puppet.
Day 25, inspired by the rhyme unstudied and ruddied, and the first image sent back from Mars by NASA’s InSight lander:
Freckled surface, still and ruddied,
sweeping spaces still unstudied,
far in space is InSight near;
insight can begin right here.
The freckles were actually dust on the lens, though.
A tree would never leave you;
it’s your steadfast, loyal bud.
A tree would never leave you;
it will root for you, come hail or flood.
A tree would never leave you;
it’s as solid as hardwood.
A tree would never leave you,
but Bernard would.
Day 27, inspired by the rhymes ultimata, weight a, and (in non-rhotic accents) eliminator:
The real eliminator
is bearing all the weight a
can have on the enforcer.
Can they just divorce a
person they adore so
much because they made a
gaffe they said would force it?
They saw the violence, and they kneeled,
did not kowtow, and did not yield.
A shout of silence that conceal’d
the loudest power they could wield.
Day 29, inspired by the rhymes miss a, Alissa, and (in non-rhotic accents) kisser:
🙂: “Why would you miss a
girl named Alissa?”
🙃: “She’s a good kisser;
don’t you dismiss her!”
🙂: “But so is Melissa,
why just one Miss, huh?”
🙃: “Not gonna diss ya,
just not down with this, yeah.
I’ll follow my bliss, you
kiss them and I’ll miss ‘lissa.”
Onto magic guild they glommed,
vibes they quivered, nerves they calm’d.
Vicariously thus becharmed,
they came through escapades unharmed.
NaNoWriMo is over, but tune in on Twitter to see if NanoRhymo continues!
I’ve been having a pretty relaxed month, but my life is ridiculous, therefore so far in September I have appeared in a music video, a radio broadcast, and a podcast.
The music video is Molly Lewis’s ‘Pantsuit Sasquatch‘, for which I recorded my feet walking up to a tortoise sculpture on a playground:
The radio broadcast (which you can also listen to online) was episode #9 of the Open Phil Broadcast on Radio Orange. The broadcast mostly features regulars at the Open Phil open mic in Vienna. Each episode features an interview with and performance by two acts; I shared this one with Adrian Lüssing, also known as The Cliff.
It was an honour to be invited to participate in the broadcast, and it was made extra awesome by the fact that it happened while Joey Marianer, who has been setting a lot of my poetry to music, was visiting Vienna, so he participated too. I recited They Might Not Be Giants, then he sang his version of it, then we sang I Love Your Body, with Joey singing the first part and me singing the second part. Yes, me singing. This is about the first time I’ve sung for an audience, and the third time Joey and I had sung that song together, and it went on the radio. I think it went pretty well, though! We performed it again a few days later on the Open Phil stage, and I’ll post video of that once I’ve uploaded it.
The podcast was episode #60 of Wrong, but Useful, a recreational mathematics podcast by @icecolbeveridge (Colin in real life) and @reflectivemaths (Dave in real life). I was invited to be a special guest cohost. I’m not sure I contributed very much, but I once again recited They Might Not Be Giants, because the hosts had heard me perform that at the MathsJam Annual Gathering last year. I have to admit, I had not actually listened to the podcast until I was invited to be on it — podcast listening is something I usually do while commuting, and lately I’ve been noncommutative. However, before episode #60 was recorded, Joey and I listened to episode #59 together, and I’m happy to report that the answer we came up with for the coin-flipping puzzle was correct.
In hindsight, I wish I’d mentioned my linguistics degree while we were chatting about English and poetry and such. I also wish I’d said something about the fact that nobody on episode #59 noticed that the diameter of the Fields medal in millimetres happened to round up to the number of the podcast (that is, 64, not 59. You don’t expect mathematicians to give each podcast episode only a single number do you?)
This reminds me, I need to register for the MathsJam Annual Gathering soon. You should too, if you can get to it. It’s a lot of fun! And who knows? Maybe if you go, you’ll end up co-hosting a podcast.
Last Towel Day, I posted a poem I had written using 42 -ation rhymes which an app I wrote found in Douglas Adams’ book ‘Last Chance to See‘. Later that day, Joey Marianer posted a video of himself singing the poem[cetacean needed], and while I did eventually mention that in another post, Towel Day had long passed by then. So strap yourself into your Poetry Appreciation Chair, because here it is for Towel Day this year:
Here are the words again:
Earth’s vegetation made slow transformation as each confrontation or new situation provoked adaptation in each generation for eons duration.
Until civilisation, and its acceleration of our population at high concentration with great exhortation and disinclination to make accommodations with administration of conservation.
Then Adams’ fascination and realisation that with elimination of echolocation no cetacean reincarnation will save our reputation; his bold exploration to spread information and fuel education and his determination to stop exploitation by identification and communication of each dislocation of species, his observation and growing frustration we reduce speciation to bone excavation with every temptation to favor our nation and not immigration of distant relations… was his speculation we’d reduce penetration mere hallucination?
The app which found these rhymes was made to create the data for my accent-aware online rhyming dictionary rhyme.science. I’ve made some improvements to the app and the rhymes it finds, and I am looking forward to updating the website to reflect the improvements, but for the last few months I’ve spent my free time working on an unrelated iOS app instead. I’ll be submitting that to the App Store soon, and will announce it here when it’s available, so watch this space. Or watch outer space, and look out for Vogons.
Have a great Towel Day, don’t forget your towel, and don’t panic!
In other news, I’ve recorded myself performing at open mics a few times lately, but I’m mostly focusing on uploading JoCo Cruise footage first. I did, however, upload this video of myself performing Mike Phirman‘s song Chicken Monkey Duck:
It’s always a crowd pleaser, and this video also pleased Mike Phirman himself, so that’s great. He deserves to be pleased!
I’m wearing an official Back to the Future hat that I bought from Universal Studios in the year 2015 (the future!) and some leggings made with Chicken Monkey Duck fabric designed by Jade Gordon specifically to go with the song.
On the subject of merchandise, I’ve made my They Might Not Be Giants poster available on Teechip, as that seems to give a better price and shipping than the other platforms it’s on. Ignore the ‘Last day to order’ warning; the campaign restarts automatically. But hey, do order soon if you want to get the poster soon. That’s how causality works, you see.
I’ve also finally started a Bandcamp page — everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I? Right now it just has my ‘Why I Perform at Open Mics‘ rap, but I intend to add many of the other recordings that have been either on The FuMP Sideshow or my long-neglected podcast, just as soon as I gather together lossless versions of everything. The podcast was a pain to update, and I think Bandcamp will be a much easier way for people to find and download all of my recordings.
I’ll also add the recording of They Might Not Be Giants I did for the poster video, and any further recordings of poems, raps, or robot choir or even human-choir songs that I happen to make. Some might feature my musical friends. Most, if not all, will be pay-what-you-like. If you want to know as soon as I add anything, click the ‘Follow’ button on my shiny new bandcamp. Do you have a favourite poem of mine that you’d like a recording of? Let me know, and maybe I’ll make one.
A while ago I wrote a poem called I Love Your Body, about some reasons to love a person’s body that aren’t superficial. Then Joey sang it, because his body can do that. Here’s what could be considered either a parody or a continuation of that poem, illustrating what can happen if you do treat someone’s body like a piece of meat:
I love your body
The way it feels like silk
The way it looks good naked
The way it smells like your perfume
The way it tastes so good in a casserole
I don’t love its flaws
The way its flesh resists my knife
The way its bones don’t decompose
The way it won’t fit in my freezer
The way its leftovers putrefied, and made my neighbour suspicious, and she tipped off the police, and there was a highly publicised trial, and now I’m in prison for life
But I love
that you had it
so that I could have you,
because brains need energy
and there’s no KFC
with home delivery.
I love your body
I hope to hold it forever
and think of you
with a love-filled belly.
So… yeah. That’s a thing I wrote. It may be related to repeated exposure to Tom Lehrer’s ‘I Hold Your Hand in Mine’ recently. It’s based in fact, though; my freezer is very small.
Well, it’s Global Poetry Writing Month again. I can’t promise to blog a poem every day, but I have a few I prepared earlier. Here’s one called Negative Return, which I wrote in 2015 in order to have an excuse to wear my flight suit on stage. It’s about a Space Shuttle launch, or a breakup, or a breakup in which the person breaking up with you is leaving in a Space Shuttle (my preferred way of breaking up with someone.) It was inspired by something a tour guide at Kennedy Space Center said, which I happened to record audio of.
This particular performance is from the open mic on the 2018 JoCo Cruise, even though on the JoCo Cruise, no excuse is needed to wear a flight suit at any time.
I’ve performed it a few times in Vienna, with slightly different wording, though I’d never actually posted about it here before. Here’s a playlist of the recorded versions of it.
Immediately before me at the open mic, Joey Marianer, who follows me around singing everything I say, sang my parody of Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Glasses’:
I’m still processing, uploading, and getting the performers’ permission to post my video from the rest of the open mic.
I recommend watching the video if you can rather than just reading, as there are some added sound effects, but here are the words to Negative Return:
When I commissioned Len Peralta to illustrate my poem They Might Not Be Giants for a poster, I paid a little extra to get a speed-paint video of its creation. This was partly because I love watching how Len draws things, but also because I wanted to make a video that would showcase both the poster and the poem. Well, I finally got around to making that video. Here you can watch Len illustrate the poster (sped up, but probably not by as much as you think, because he’s pretty fast) while listening to me read the poem:
I’ve also collected all the videos I have of this poem (my performances, and Joey’s song) in a playlist, in case you’d like to hear the same words several times, or see how it’s changed over time, or whatever. I just like making playlists, okay?
If you’d like a copy of the poster, check my Things to Buy page for information on how to buy it. Or, if you happen to live in Vienna, catch me at one of the open mic nights some time; I usually have posters and bookmarks with me.
I’ve been meaning to put a revised version of the poem The Bookshop on a bookmark for a while, but put it aside as I didn’t have the tools to do it the way I wanted. Motivated by the recent Christmas shopping edition of the Open Phil open mic, I finally bought the app I needed, finished the design, and had some printed, so now you can buy them on my Etsy shop. They may be a little late for Jólabókaflóðið, but you were going to read all year anyway, right? These are considerably cheaper to post worldwide than my posters (fun falsehood: posters are call that because they’re more post), and while the postage still costs more than the thing itself in most cases, you can save on postage by ordering more than one at once.
If you’ve ever started casually reading something in a bookshop and then looked up and realised the sun has gone down, you’ll understand the generally timey-wimey nature of books and bookshops shown in this poem. Admittedly, when this happened to me shortly before I wrote the poem, I was in Stockholm on the shortest day of the year, but it can happen on longer days too. The background shows a sky slowly darkening and becoming a sunset as you read through the poem. The reverse of the bookmark has the name of the poem and author, on the same sky as seen facing away from the Sun.
It occurs to me that a customised version of this poem bookmark might be useful to promote an actual bookshop, so if you’d be interested in that, let me know.
Much thanks to my friend Grace Bridges for her advice on the design of the bookmarks; I would recommend her books to use the bookmark on, but they’re mostly on Kindle, so I’ll just recommend them whether you still use physical bookmarks or not. She also has some posters and T-shirts available on Teechip. I am now considering putting some things up on Teechip myself, since it would be better value than either Zazzle or Etsy for getting posters and T-shirts to people around the world. I’ll also publish a book some day. I’m also working on a few videos and apps and version two of the rhyming dictionary I’m not officially publicising (don’t tell anyone I just linked to it! It’s our secret) until I’ve finished version two. But one thing at a time.
My friend Joey Marianer used his brain to come up with a tune for I Love Your Body, and then he used the rest of his body to turn it into sounds! Isn’t this great?
I’ve been thinking this could be turned into a longer singalong by having the same thing repeated with ‘I love my body…’ etc., and then maybe ‘We love our bodies’. It would remove one of the few rhymes (‘brains need ATP/and there’s no ESP/that would show you to me’ would become something like ‘there’s no ESP to show myself to you’ or ‘there’s no ESP to show ourselves to each other’) but the cool thing about songs is they can sound good even when they don’t rhyme.
In any case, those lines should perhaps be changed. Mentioning ATP (a chemical that transports energy that cells can use) is a little too scientific for this song, and I’m no biologist so I’m not sure it’s the best chemical to mention anyway. (Edit: The obvious substitution, which I didn’t think of until far too late, is simply ‘energy’.) Most of what I know about ATP comes from songs. If you want a song that explains how ATP is made by mitochondria, try Come On Down (The Electron Transport Chain) by Science Groove:
Or Oxidative Phosphorylation, also by Science Groove:
Back to ‘I Love Your Body’, I’ve found that I’ve ended up with a completely different musical version of it in my head. I can’t transcribe the tune, but the words go something like this:
I love your body
The way it keeps you ali-i-ive
I love your body
The way it has a you inside
I love your body
How it allows communications
I love your body
The way it gives you sweet sensations
That’s all from me. Use your body to make somebody happy today!
I love your body
The way it keeps you alive
The way it lets you touch me
The way it lets us communicate
The way it gives you pleasant sensations
I don’t love its flaws
The way it hurts you
The way it makes you sick
The way it makes you tired
The way it can’t do the things that you want it to
But I love
that you have it
so that I can have you,
because brains need ATP
and there’s no ESP
that would show you to me.
I love your body
I hope it takes care of you
and you of it
for a love-filled lifetime.
I wrote this in a couple of minutes a few nights ago because I was sick of how much of even ‘body positivity’ seems to be focused on embracing how unfashionably-shaped bodies look, thus lending credence to the central tenet of body negativity and body shaming: that a body’s appearance is its most important attribute.
On the other hand, perhaps it is sometimes a good idea to pay attention to appearance (as with race, gender, etc.) in order to actively counteract subconscious or institutionalised biases. I am not sure. It’s probably not my place to say, since it’s been a long time since I had any body image issues of my own or paid attention to other people’s issues with my body’s image.
I wasn’t sure whether to post this already, but some very powerful people have been making unsolicited comments about the appearances of people’s bodies lately, and also a friend who hadn’t read it encouraged me to post it. I’ve dusted it off a little but not as much as I usually would. Perhaps some day I’ll craft it into something fancier, choose some better words, some rhymes, or make it into a parody of some well-known ‘I love your body; it has comfortable places for me to put my genitals’-style pop song (any suggestions? I don’t know very many songs that aren’t already funny), but for now I’ve at least ticked off the recurring ‘write something’ item on my to-do list. Have a great time consensually touching the universe with your meat-suit!
Also, about an hour from the time I post this, there’s a live stream of CERN’s doo-wop band, and the first band on the web, Les Horribles Cernettes (LHC). If you read this in time to watch that, I recommend it! I’ve had the privilege of seeing several of their shows in person, as well as meeting them, and they’re nowhere near as horrible as they claim.