Archive for March, 2009

Geek tagging

A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The “QR” is derived from “Quick Response”, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. QR Codes are common in Japan, where they are currently the most popular type of two dimensional codes. Moreover, most current Japanese mobile phones can read this code with their camera.

The above image is the QR code for Show Your Workings, don’t you love that?

QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or just about any object that users might need information about. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader software can scan the image of the QR Code causing the phone’s browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL. This act of linking from physical world objects is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks. Users can also generate and print their own QR Code for others to scan and use by visiting one of several free QR Code generating sites. – wikipedia

I can imagine plenty of craft applications for QR code


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I’m bombarded everyday with clips of cell phones popping popcorn, pink dolphins, you name it. The internet and Photoshop have got a lot to answer for. I’m slowly entering the world of the Matrix, Twitter is streaming endless bites down my screen. I am Neo, filtering information, finding truths in the code; the digital rain.

I’m sitting in bed with my laptop and wireless connection, writing a fictional true story, no, being a fictional true story. While I write I discuss concepts of truth and reality in fiction and nonfiction on facebook. I’ve set up my facebook account to automatically update my twitter account so I am also discussing the same concepts on twitter simultaneously with six friends. We mostly agree. We all want truth in our journalism but are all feeling manipulated by the press and that poems are art before all else and isn’t it sad about Natasha Richardson?

I’m experiencing the simulation of reality, the simulacra. I’m living on-line, reading news feeds from spin-doctors and multi-national marketing campaigns. I have snopes.com open in one window while reading web gossip passing for news in another. Is this why you can’t run an election campaign appealing to trust?

I’m writing a poem, it maps my empire. The map of my empire is growing as big as the empire itself, which is decaying around me. There is no longer any God to recognize his own, nor any last judgement to separate truth from false, everything is dead and risen. Except me, I’m still in bed (with the laptop).

I’ve got an original painting on my wall, it covers the window and a crap view of an alley way. It’s a Karl Maughan, I love his hyper-real style. I prefer it to what’s behind the canvas, mind you I haven’t looked behind the canvas for a while now, so I’m not sure what’s there anymore. Karl paints flower gardens and is married to Emily Perkins, I googled him and her, now I know what school their kids go to in Auckland, that’s the truth.

I check my Facebook news feed, all my friends are taking quizzes. Three quizzes later it seems I am Patti Smith, a poetic Baba yaga. In the world of post-identity, facebook and its quizzes are really the only lights that we, destitute of faith and self, have to go by. If only there was a quiz to help you decide which quiz to take next. I’d take that. I decide to write a quiz about what kind of quiz taker the end user is. Then I create a randomly generated album cover for a non-existent band and tag my friends to do the same. Art is random after all.

I post my true story onto my blog and catch up with my bloglines subscriptions, I comment at The Handmirror blog about the right for breastfeeding mothers to have avatars of themselves breastfeeding then join the protest group on facebook and also black out my avatar to protest about the Guilt Upon Accusation law. There’s an excellent podcast on Craftivism, which I download for my i-pod, the Craft Cartel plan to throw knitted bombs at shopping malls later this year.

I get a pxt from a friend; an image of her in the civic square, she is holding the giant silver ball of ferns between two fingers. I txt back “Lol 😉 ur sch a tourist!” She txts back “mt me @ lib caf?” “Srry gt 2 mch hmwrk!” I txt back, then notice she is twittering from her mobile in response to my earlier questions about truth and fiction. “What about the reader?” She twitters “Does the text exist if no one wants to reads it?” “Oh please!” I twitter “If a tree falls in the woods, yadda yadda. Who cares what the reader thinks?!!!”

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Sculpture: The Persistence of Memory, Dali

This week I’ve been reading more about Elizabeth Bishop and taking notes from Art and Memory in the work of Elizabeth Bishop– Jonathan Ellis.

The notion of poetic form as a hiding place for autobiographical secrets, somewhere to absorb, codify and often re-imagine memories, not just of friends and relatives but of other painters and poets – Ellis, p15

Life and the memory of life gets so compressed that they turn into each other. Which is which? These ideas tie back to what I was thinking about Elizabeth Knox making me want to re-write my past. EB seems to be very certain of her memories and their clarity, to have easy access to them. But they are more than just memories.

Memory becomes a synonym for art, for that which is alive forever rather than bound by mortality. It takes on the indeterminate form of a ghost or zombie, something that has a relation to life but is, at the same time, on the other side of the immortal or unloving. –Ellis, p21

The past needs to undergo transformation though, to be transformed into art. EB uses memory but transforms hers by placing formal constraints on them. I read her poem In Paris, 7AM.

here’s the first stanza:

I make a trip to each clock in the apartment:

some hands point histrionically one way

and some point others, from ignorant faces.

Time is an Etoile; the hours diverge

so much that days are journeys round the suburbs,

circles surrounding stars, overlapping circles.

The short, half-tone scale of winter weathers

is a spread pigeon’s wing.

Winter lives under a pigeon’s wing, a dead wing with damp


She is playing with clocks and time, looking out from a confused interior, which seems to confuse the exterior, it is quite surreal (although she is not a surrealist). The title is certain of time and place but the content of the poem blurs this reality.

Rather than evading limitations of time (and space?) clocks, all telling different times, seem to lead, via “endless intersecting circles” into a dizzy solipsism. What do we really know? What is real? Does anything really exist? Are past and present separate? How can anything be truly communicated?

Her ideas are so big and this poem is quite depressing, they both make you feel so small and uncertain, vulnerable in the world.

Co-incidentally the exercise of the week is also about memory.

Remembered Space (an exercise adapted from Mark Doty)

Note: This exercise is in two clear stages, produced over two days.

  1. First sketch the floor plan of the first house you can remember. Next fill it in with details of objects, placement of furniture, etc. Next pick up one of those objects and do a quick mind map – a free-associated list of words based on the object. When done, flip to a blank page and write (for 20-25 minutes) based on this. Write in first person, present tense.
  2. Next day, make something finished (no more than three pages) from your previous day’s writing: an autobiographical sketch, a poem, a story.

I sketched my childhood house and focussed on the mantelpiece and a clock on it, of course, after reading Paris, 7AM. But it’s awful to read after that, I feel like a child writing one fragile, simplistic layer of a poem while EB has written a multi-layered, brainiac poem. I guess it’s just stupid to think that way, how do I break through to the next level of my writing?

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Image: Elizabeth Bishop

I’ve been reading Sylvia Plath’s journals for the first time. Oh how self indulgent! I’m glad I burnt my earlier journals; I couldn’t bear for anyone to be going through them. They are so THEN, which you may think is a good thing but I’m not sure. Teenaged angst! Bluurk! I see some similarity between her and Elizabeth Knox – not in the angst but rather they both seem so self assured, on a deeper level, that they are destined to be great (even though SP was depressive). Perhaps I’m too humble or self doubting to be a great writer. I certainly feel I must be too down to earth! I am what I am. I can’t produce an air of fey writerlyness from the earth.

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Knox’s personal essays The Love School. I’m enjoying them, probably more than her fiction, which I sometimes find a bit self indulgent. Even as I write this last statement, I know this is actually a statement about my upbringing and my parent’s dislike about anything remotely resembling indulgence.

In her essays EK is so sure of herself, so determined, resolute, certain. It makes me realise how, all my life, I’ve undermined my own certainty. Perhaps it’s the influence of science on me. You can only disprove things, theories are always being challenged, improved, nothing is set in stone, few things are certain apart from the laws of physics and morals according to my parents. In EK’s world Elizabeth is a hero, sometimes frail of health, but always strong in her mind, certain, confident in her opinion and action. Or so she says. I start to realise that I could write my present, re-write my past with that attitude too, if I want. No one questions my authority but me. I had to re-read The High Jump after I read her essays, it added some depth I guess but mostly it was a comfort re-read, it’s my favourite book of hers. And this leapt from the page at me:

The ghost of protestant secret keeping – the notion that all private life is secret and all strong feeling shameful – The High Jump

I’m such a WASP!

I might re-read some of my old travel journals at some point and ask my mother-in-law for some more of hers from the 60’s. I wish Nora had kept journals, at least Dad kept notes of their discussions.

In comparison to Plath, Elizabeth Bishop’s letters are all about what’s not said, exactly like their poetry, I shouldn’t be surprised. Although EB does say a lot more in letters than in her poetry. Then to look at Ted Hugh’s Birthday Letters, well, I partly feel sorry for him, spending so much time trying to say “it wasn’t my fault”. In a way they are as bad as each other (Plath & Hughes). There’s not much space left for their craft after all the personal dramas. Poems as conversation, hmmm.

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Just want to say go and have a look over here.


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Week one at Varsity, exciting to actually get started and meet everyone. Finally it’s real. Most of the first class was housekeeping: structure, expectations, and introductions.

We all read out a piece of writing (as a way of introducing ourselves) that Chris had pulled out of our submission portfolios. Mine was the Survival Sestina (scroll down heaps), which I have a love hate relationship with, however it did illustrate my re-occurring themes of suburban neuroses, science and magical thinking – ha!

Also it was good to introduce myself on a lighter, more humorous note than some scary “dead mother” poem!

The rest of the class seem genuine and interesting, actually what will be interesting is which ones turn out to be “my” readers, the ones who respond most helpfully and “get” my work.

I’m looking forward to discussing my reading list, I feel I need direction from someone smarter than me, I don’t feel very well read.

It’s a bit of a shame that Writers and Readers week isn’t on this year, which would have been a great kick start to our reading journals.

Our first class exercise was to write a one page biographical note written about ourselves in the voice of someone else. I was at a bit of a loss and cobbled together a school report using quotes from real old school reports, which I posted earlier this week. The piece was to have three truths and one lie, fun. We handed these out in the first class to read overnight and respond the following day. Some of the class had written a one page short story, Kay had written a one page poem, akk! I felt a bit intimidated! My piece wasn’t really crafted like their pieces had been, ah well, next time…

Speaking of which exercise two is to write a piece with three false starts. The text should be composed of three numbered fragments, yet still somehow seem complete. Length: 2-3 pages!!!!!!!!!!

I have to get over my anxiety about writing longer poems! I have an idea about old boyfriends, I could write a fragment about three different boyfriends and why they never made the grade. This seems a little simplistic but I guess the deeper motif is feminism or misogyny?

At the end of the presentation I talked about how public documents – forms – held some fascination for me. I like the form of the school report because it seemed to say so much about me but at the same time said nothing at all and needed to be read between the lines.

Forms / form. I guess this is why I wrote Show Your Workings in the form it took and my lost and found poem in the form of a form, also the attraction of sestinas etc.

Considering my motif of magical thinking it was funny to have a moment of serendipity today when I was reading. I’ve been so excited about getting access to the VUW library again, there are quite a few books on Elizabeth Bishop I’ve been wanting to get stuck into. I started with Elizabeth Bishop: the Geography of Gender and spent a few hours in the library taking notes, reading about Elizabeth and thinking about how restrained she was. She said publically on many occasions that her poems were totally literal but she lied! There was a close reading about “In the Waiting Room” which was quite interesting in this respect. Elizabeth used form, very strict form, everything was between the lines – in the absences. She censored herself. Her strict form use suited her style but she still had “Flickers of Impudence”, little bird droppings sprinkled through the poems. She was not as discrete as she was made out to be by many critics.

Why did she talk her self down in that way – saying that her poems were just accounts of real events? I guess many poets use real events as starting points, and embellish to illustrate a point. Why did she say that? Was she trying to add mystery, magic to her work? Like some poets claim that their poems come fully formed? *snort*. She, however, was the queen of revision, whittling and binding until sometimes original meanings were reversed and a tidy tight nugget remained.

I scribbled these notes on the way home:


  • Public
  • formal
  • strict
  • instructive
  • structured
  • say everything yet nothing
  • between the lines
  • restraint
  • censored
  • prescriptive
  • jargon
  • nonsensical
  • weird grammar

It might be quite fun to tease out a bit more from these ideas, I can imagine a series of fake forms.

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40 b4 40 status report

Here’s an update on my Uber to do List.

9. Reading!!

13. Dancing!

29. Tomatoes okay but not amazing

30. Said No a couple of times 😉

32. Sent off some poems

33. Seen some great gigs

35. Got a blueberry bush (thank P!)

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