Friday, April 16, 2010

poetry, daily: 12

Well, we're more than halfway now, so thank you if you're still hanging on and doing this daily practice. It's no easy thing, that's for sure.

A thought on critique: For serious writers, when looking at another writer's work, the question does not become 'is this the thing that should be done?' but 'what is this thing I have here?'--not 'is it working?' but 'how is it working?'. Once these questions are resolved, the writer and her critics will be in a position to interrogate the workings and make substitutions, if necessary.

Good peer review examines what is on the page explicitly and thereby examines the potential (what could be there if the author changes things, or what would be there if you were the author). It doesn't make what doesn't exist the focus of its study. I'm not talking about rejecting the conditional or future tenses when talking about the poem, but about basing any projections on what is there, rather than on what I-critic might personally desire. How is the thing in front of me working and how can I make it better? The engineer doesn't say the bicycle should be a light socket, but might incorporate some function of the latter into the former, if necessary (like to light the way at night!).

And ask, maybe: What can this poem teach my practice?

the light was beautiful and it was warm

Writing exercise: Write a poem about something lost in interrogatives, rather than declaratives.

See you Monday.


All work here © 2010 and onward to me, Eireann Lorsung. Please do not reproduce my words in any form in print or online. If you wish to excerpt parts from the month of poetry featured here, please contact me: ohbara at gmail dot com.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

poetry, daily: 10

Writing exercise: Take 10 of your poems you feel closest to or most affectionate about. Go through them and list the nouns, verbs, and adjectives/adverbs you use. This is your lexicon. Compose a new poem using only the words on these lists, plus any conjunctions, articles, and tense/person changing suffixes necessary. What is the new poem like? Does it feel similar to/different from the source poems? Reductive? Fresh? Have you been forced to use the same words you tend to use in new ways? Or not? Have you fallen into your usual tendencies?

See you tomorrow.


All work here © 2010 and onward to me, Eireann Lorsung. Please do not reproduce my words in any form in print or online. If you wish to excerpt parts from the month of poetry featured here, please contact me: ohbara at gmail dot com.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

poetry, daily: 9

Writing exercise: Write a poem without the word 'I', without the word 'he', without the word 'she'.

Check out the slender, lovely slip of a poem that is Rae Armantrout's "Second Person".

How about this anthology compiled by C. Dale Young?

Our shadow is our second person.

See you tomorrow.

All work here © 2010 and onward to me, Eireann Lorsung. Please do not reproduce my words in any form in print or online. If you wish to excerpt parts from the month of poetry featured here, please contact me: ohbara at gmail dot com.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

poetry, daily: 8

Check out these words about Michael Dickman's book, The End of the West. Two very different reviews in two quite different outlets, and the second one is not entirely kind (which is fine--reviews aren't meant to be laureates, but this one, unfortunately, has the slightest aura of sour-grapishness about it). I met Michael once, quite a long time ago now, at a party at a friend's house. We talked about Randall Jarrell and then exchanged letters for some months. I wish I had kept up the correspondence, because I liked his poems then and I like what I've read recently.


coats, mirror, sink

One thing I like about his poems is how you enter them. I am drawn to poets who are methodical and considerate, and his entrances feel that way. The dangerous other side is plodding.

Writing exercise: How do you enter the poem? Via what door, tunnel, passage, arch, window? Begin the poem at its entrance.

See you tomorrow.


All work here © 2010 and onward to me, Eireann Lorsung. Please do not reproduce my words in any form in print or online. If you wish to excerpt parts from the month of poetry featured here, please contact me: ohbara at gmail dot com.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

poetry, daily.

poetry month

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. Beginning April 1, there'll be something here every weekday. I'd love to see if you join in--leave responses to writing exercises in the comments (or a link to your post), tell me what you think!

(P.S.: you can steal a little banner like the one above by clicking here and downloading it.)

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Thursday, March 11, 2010


letter with birds and airmail stickers

Girl of the future, I'm sending you a crown airmail...

If you are waiting for an email about your public transit tickets and your cameras, please wait a little more--it's coming. I've been working on this, haven't had time for much else. But I haven't forgotten. If you're still interested but haven't gotten in touch, please email ohbara at gmail dot com. The project will entail you receiving something in the post, taking a high-quality digital photograph (I'll specify what), then sending me back the photo (via email) and a public-transit ticket of any kind from the place it was taken.

Recently: Benoit P.'s photos. Kyoto Chirimen Museum. Magritte's house is a museum, too. A short video (not new, but still funny) about art school.

And more good mail. (Thanks, Gracia & Louise! Poems soon.)

mail from gracia

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Friday, February 26, 2010

paris, a very small tour.

paris from butte mmtr.

From Butte Montmartre. One of my favorite places because you can sit and watch all the people getting to the top, completely tired from all the steps, and then see them turn around and see Paris like this. I like to walk back down behind the basilica and then (if it is daytime and they are open) go into the many fabric shops. That's where I got the printed cotton with flying geese on it (with my mom when she came to see me).


A small Jewish grocery in the Marais, selling glazed fruits in these bins. The walls are lined with every possible kind of alcohol you could imagine, all different bottles reflecting all different kinds of light. This is where I found a bottle of Izarra for my dad. Right down the street from many little shops, including Petit Pan and many shops selling Japanese goods.

The herbs and plants in my friend's kitchen. Her window looks out on the court but it is the 5th floor, so there is lots of light.

The view from her window. I loved the neighbors' geraniums and the zinc-colored pipes and drains. Even though I remember how miserable living in those old buildings could be, I recognise their beauty (and hope I did, then, too). And the grey sky, against which the buildings of Paris are particularly beautiful, although they are stunning against the bright blue, too.

See? They're just made for that. The colors are so elegant and understated, and then all of a sudden they're right in front of you and you realise how well-planned they are, how they are just made to go together. The shades and shadows the different angles make. That gold dome!

Speaking of exclamation marks, here's one in the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden founded in the 17th century. Those trees are so Parisian as to be a cliché, aren't they? But they exist. I sat in this garden many times drawing.

Drawing these bean-poles, specifically. And watching the people. And listening to them talk.

This is Mélodies Graphiques, also in the Marais, very near the Ile-St-Louis. I bought a tiny card (about 1.5" by 2") that had had a pattern burnt out of it: flowers and leaves in an arbor. He collects the beautiful mail his customers send him. I promised to send something, but haven't. Maybe this year.

And this is Austerlitz Station (Gare d'Austerlitz), to which I had a fond connection because of W.G. Sebald's book Austerlitz, which you can read about here. And here. And here. And here. The Métro trains going in are bright turquoise, which is brilliant against the gray stone and glass, and echoes the faded turquoise paint on the façade (you can see a hint of it in the mullions of the window in the lower left corner of the photograph).

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

return to the archive

after some changes

Wow, it's been a long time since I wrote about Derrida. Well, let's change that. I'm re-reading The Postcard for the chapter I'm writing right now and it makes me remember exactly why I love Derrida. He is so materially romantic. The archive? Yes, it's the part of memory work that contains the trace of the past, and it's an important theoretical trope. But it's also a material love story for Derrida, who caresses his distant beloved via his careful treatment of the things around himself. He notices everything. The book is full of trains, photomatons, houses of cards, pots of growing myrtle, books, letters, postcards, photographs, traces of the beloved and the disappearance. And throughout it there is the insistence on the burning of the archive--let's destroy it as we go, let's start over, Derrida (or 'Derrida', because as readers we're not meant to be sure of who we are reading, I don't think) says. Let's build this record of all the things that I love and you love and then if we need to let's leave it all behind, poems and libraries and Purim cakes and telephones and hands and cut-paper flowers.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

printing (again)


Playing with pieces of old prints in order to get ready for the class I'm teaching at LPW next weekend, I made this, which is pleasing on lots of levels.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"...but he did have pictures of this apartment. He got the job."


It's the last sentence of this article* that I think speaks most to me--about how our 'training' as thinkers, makers, and academics has to be flexible, and not only nominally so. It's time for a re-valuing of diverse and deep knowledges, and of unorthodox expressions thereof! Why not--why can't a maker be a geographer, or a pattern designer, or an amateur (in the best sense of that word) astronomer? Especially with the amount of information that is available to us now via the internet (not to mention via the more traditional sources--public libraries, museums, universities, etc.), there is so much possibility for deepening and broadening our understandings.

It wasn't so long ago that an apprenticeship--proving one's capabilities, learning by doing--was an acceptable way to learn things. Why not now? Come on, all you auto-didacts: there's a whole lot of everything out there waiting to be known and thought about and wondered at and questioned. And that can change the system as we know it--where at the moment more and more it seems that education is 'just' a means to an end; where things like 'impact' (what does that even mean?!) mean more than passion and wonder; where learning is commodified and curiosity loses ground.

Education in the most open sense of the word--open access to and curiosity about the world, or as much of it as possible--should be for everyone. And it begins in thinking that things are possible, that one can learn about what is interesting.

So what would you do? What do you want to know? Where are you going to begin?


* N.B.: I do find the kind of blithe endorsement of collecting for the sake of the aesthetic of collections kind of bizarre, though. What's the point of having Wellies you don't wear? Okay, they're beautiful objects, designed objects...but they're also functional. Design for design's sake? I think W. Benjamin would have something to say to that.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


to Buxton

to bakewell

One thing I love about the small scale of the UK is that these landscapes are just a couple of hours from me by bus. I'd like to go back to the Peaks alone and stay somewhere for a week. Seems like a place that could be really good for writing.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

changed priorities ahead

changed priorities ahead

In about two weeks, the ftp service I use through Blogger is going to end, and I'm not sure what will happen to this space, or to the posts I've made here for the last three years, at that point. I'm looking at my options right now, but the ones I've found aren't ideal.

I'd like to keep control of how my space looks, and I don't want there to be ads. I'd like to keep my archives accessible. I'm looking at Movable Type, but I'm not sure I have the energy and time that switch would take.

I really like how sites like Martha's new workbook and Delphine Doreau's sketchbook work, and I've been wanting a way to make my site more integrated and less linear.

Any ideas/recommendations/help?

On an aside that may be interesting only to me, I just realised (prompted by a comment from Nadia) that something like the past ten posts have had pictures of buildings in them.

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Monday, January 25, 2010


part of something II
(An unrelated drawing of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis fulfils your recommended daily sketch allowance.)

Poetry readers, writers: I am in urgent need of your recommendations for single texts (NOT anthologies) to teach to intermediate/advanced adult students of poetry. I'm teaching a workshop this summer that will be a reading-as-writers (i.e., literature-based) workshop, and I'd just love to hear what other people would teach. I'm going to choose two books (maybe three); it's a two-week (6-day) course.

Right now my brainstorm list includes My Life by Lyn Hejinian; Glass, Irony and God, by Anne Carson; Residence on Earth by Neruda; Some Ether by Nick Flynn. I'd like books that are challenging formally or thematically but that students who aren't extremely familiar with recent writing could still enjoy (for that reason, the Hejinian is lower on my list). I'm thinking of structuring the course around the construction of the self.

Let the discussion begin. What text would you love to teach? What text inspired you (and/or still does)? What text do you wish you'd been taught? And why, why, why? All suggestions very welcome.

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Friday, January 15, 2010



Has adventures. But he is not the only one. You can still email me (ohbara at gmail cot com) or leave a comment if you want to participate in the project I'll begin in March. You need to have access to a public transport network that gives you a ticket, a digital camera, and to be willing to send me a photo (I'll tell you of what) and the ticket.

Full details will come to participants in March (and when they do, your utter discretion is necessary). If you know of people who might like to play along--especially from Asia, Central America, South America, Africa, and Europe--please pass my contact details along.

For now, look at her and this and this.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

a list, and help required.

birdwoman, meet kabouter.

Forgeries, masks, games, double agents (triple agents), clementines in the winter, granny-smiths in the summer, some Borges and Neruda, lots of wandering around Paris by myself, pretend mushrooms and plastic goldfish, nasturtium leaves (like dollhouse plates), red notebook, trains, a photobooth.

The lovely Belgian gave me a new camera for Christmas. The one I had, I'd had since 2002 and then it cost me about $70. It's not bad--it's fine for documentation--but it's about 2 megapixels (my mobile's camera is more powerful) and it doesn't like to focus and it eats batteries like candy. It is such a luxury to be able to take clear photographs, of high quality, and at a large size.

I'm thinking of where my prints will go and I think photography (and the rest of the list above) will be a big part.

I need volunteers from other places in the world who will take a photograph (I'll send instructions) and send me a used train ticket. Any takers?

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Monday, November 30, 2009

* a * r * n * a * u * d *


His name is Arnaud, and he is the last of les Champignons de Paris. (You can find them here, along with many other mushrooms I have made or found.) With the others, and with ornaments and prints and bobêches and necklaces and patchwork bags and pretty things, he will be at the KiosKiosk in Nottingham where I'll be part of a shop. We're just up the way from the main Christmas market, so get a mug of mulled wine and come say hi.

If you're in Nottingham, stop by and see me. The KiosKiosk is on Pelham Street, across from Homemade Café, just up from Zara. You can see some of the things I've made here. We're open Tues-Weds-Thurs this week (1-2-3 December) from 10-6 T/W and 10-5 Th. I'm with Amy Blackwell and Hollie Brown.

If you're not in Nottingham, some things will be up for sale on Monday, December 7. Check here for details.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

liefde is alles, liefde is alles

leg je hand in de meine, tot we samen verdwijnen

This is a beautiful song:

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