poetry

Vocabulary

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/09/2019 - 6:36am in

He chose his words carefully.
Each one a gun, a grenade or a knife.
Beneath the rattle and stutter,
the swagger and bluster,
lay a bruise, an assault, and a life.

Establishment Media Bias and the Cheltenham Literary Festival

Someone really ought to do a study of the way the big literary festivals – Haye-on-Wye, Cheltenham and the others – select the books and media celebs they want to push and the way they try to manipulate public opinion towards the establishment consensus. Because, believe me, it is there.

In a couple of weeks’ time, right at the beginning of October, it’ll be the Cheltenham Literary Festival. As it’s booklet of coming events tells you, it’s been proudly going for 70 years. I think it was set up, or given a great deal of assistance when it was set up, by Alan Hancock, who owned a secondhand bookshop on Cheltenham’s Promenade. It was a fascinating place, where you could acquire some really fascinating, valuable academic books cheaply. But it had the same internal layout as the fictional setting of the 1990’s Channel 4 comedy, Black Books, but without Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey or Tamsin Grieg.

The festival’s overall literary stance is, very roughly, broadsheet papers + BBC, especially Radio 4. It pretty much shows what’s captured the attention of the newspaper literary pages and the BBC news team, several of whom naturally have books coming out, and who are appearing. In past years I’ve seen John Simpson, Simon Hoggart, Quentin Letts, Giles Brandreth and John Humphreys talk or appear on panels. This year they’ve got, amongst others, Emily Maitlis and Humphrey’s again.

Much of the Festival’s content is innocuous enough, even praiseworthy from a left-wing perspective. For example, there are a number of authors talking about their books about empowering women and ethnic minorities. These include Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene talking about their book, Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which is what it says: a guide for Black girls. Other topics and books discussed are on how empowered Black men are, and various feminist works about how gynaecological problems should be discussed openly, and the changing nature of the female muse. Rather than being passive creatures, modern muses are active, liberated women conquering business, sports, the arts and science. There’s also a piece on the future of masculinity, titled ‘Will Boys Still Be Boys’, which asks what will happen to boys now that the idea that there is a natural realm of masculinity, such as superiority and aggression, has been disproved. The concern with ethnic minority authors has always been there, or at least since the 1990s. Then, and in the early part of this century, a frequent theme of the Festival was ‘crossing continents’, which gave a platform to prominent literary authors from outside Europe and the West. It also gave space to Black and Asian literature from the UK. I can remember too, how one of the events staged at the Festival was a celebration of Black British poetry, much of it in Caribbean Patois.

The Festival also caters for more popular tastes. In the past it had speaking the Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, along with the approved, heavyweight literary types. It has events for children’s books, and this year features such media celebrities as Francis Rossi from Status Quo and Paul Merton. So, something for everyone, or so it seems.

But nevertheless, the Establishment bias is there, especially as so many of the speakers, like Maitlis and Humphreys, are drawn from the mainstream media. Back in the 1990s the Festival was sponsored by the Independent. Now it’s sponsored by the Times, the Murdoch rag whose sister paper, the Sunset Times, has spent so much time smearing Corbyn and his supporters as Communist infiltrators or vicious anti-Semites. Maitlis and Humphreys are BBC news team, and so, almost by definition, they’re Conservative propagandists. Especially as Humphreys is retiring, and has given interviews and written pieces for the Heil. Any chance of hearing something from the Cheltenham Festival about the current political situation that doesn’t conform to what the Establishment wants you to hear, or is prepared to tolerate? Answers on a postcard, please. Here’s a couple of examples. One of the topics under discussion is ‘Populism’. I don’t know what they’re planning to include in it, but from previous discussions of this in the media, I’m prepared to bet that they’ll talk about Trump, possibly Boris Johnson, the rise of extreme right-wing movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world, like Marine Le Pen former Front National in France, the AfD in Germany, Orban and so on in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Five Star Movement in Italy. All of whom are definitely populists. But they’ll also probably include Corbyn and Momentum, because Corbyn is genuinely left-wing, challenges the Thatcherite neoliberal consensus and will empower the masses. All of which threatens the Establishment. There are also individual politicians speaking this year, but the only one I found from the Left was Jess Philips. Who isn’t remotely left-wing in the traditional sense, though she is an outspoken feminist.

The other topic is about what should be done with Putin. Now let’s not delude ourselves, Putin is a corrupt thug, and under him Russia has become once again a very autocratic state. Political and religious dissidents, including journalists, are being attacked, jailed and in some cases murdered. Among the religious groups he’s decided are a threat to Mother Russia are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not a member of the denomination, and find their doorstep campaigning as irritating as everyone else. But they are certainly not a dangerous cult or terrorist organisation. And they have stood up to tyrants. They were persecuted by the Nazis during the Third Reich, with their members imprisoned in the concentration camps, including a 17 year old boy, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. For which I respect for them. The Arkhiplut has enriched himself, and rewarded his cronies with company directorships, while assassinating the oligarchs, who haven’t toed his line. And I still remember the genocidal butchery he unleashed in Chechnya nearly two decades ago, because they had the temerity to break away.

But geopolitically, I don’t regard Putin as a military threat. In terms of foreign policy it seems that Putin is interested solely in preserving the safety of his country from western encirclement. Hence the invasion of the Ukraine to protect the Russian minority there. If he really wanted to conquer the country, rather than the Donbass, his tanks would be in Kiev by now. I’ve blogged before about how Gorbachev was promised by the West that in return for allowing the former eastern European satellites to break away from the USSR, they would remain neutral and not become members of NATO. That’s been violated. They’ve all become members, and there are NATO military bases now on Russia’s doorstep. The Maidan Revolution of 2012 which overthrew the previous, pro-Russian president of Ukraine was stage managed by the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. There’s evidence that the antagonism against Putin’s regime comes from western multinationals, who feel aggrieved at not being able to seize Russian companies as promised by Putin’s predecessor, the corrupt, drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin. Putin also seems to be quite genuine in his belief in a multipolar world, in which his country, as well as others like China, are also superpowers. But the Americans are interested only in maintaining their position as the world’s only superpower through ‘full spectrum dominance’: that is, absolute military superiority. The US’ military budget supersedes both the Russian and that of the four other major global countries combined. Arguably, Russia ain’t the global threat. America and NATO are.

Festivals like that of Cheltenham are important. They’re business arrangements, of course. They exist to sell books. But they also encourage literacy, and allow the public to come face to face with the people, who inform and entertain them through the written word. Although here the books’ pages of Private Eye complained years ago that the Festival and others like it gave more space to celebrities from television, sport, music and other areas, rather than people, whose primary living was from writing. But the information we are given is shaped by the media – by the papers and broadcasters, who give the public the news, and the publishers, who decide which books on which subjects to publish. And then there’s the bias of the individual festivals themselves. And in the case of Cheltenham, it is very establishment. It’s liberal in terms of feminism and multiculturalism, but other conservative, and increasing Conservative, in others. It’s through events like Cheltenham that the media tries to create and support the establishment consensus.

But that consensus is rightly breaking down, as increasingly more people become aware that it is only creating mass poverty. The Establishment’s refusal to tolerate other, competing opinions – their demonisation of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Nazis, for example – is leading to further alienation and disaffection. Working people don’t find their voices and concerns reflected in the media. Which is why they’re turning to the online alternatives. But Festivals like Cheltenham carry on promoting the same establishment agenda, with the odd voice from the opposition, just like the Beeb’s Question Time. And this is going to change any time soon, not with lyingt rags like the Times sponsoring it.

All in the Timing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/09/2019 - 9:00am in

Tags 

poetry

Dang, sorry. This is only available to a Meanjin subscriber. But we can fix that. It’s just $100 for print or $50 for digital. DIGITAL PRINT

The post All in the Timing appeared first on Meanjin.

06:30 Friday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/09/2019 - 9:00am in

Tags 

poetry

Another sun
appears on the side
of a building block
in a high rise district
West.
You watch it
burn down,
a lit wick
until its great glow

The post 06:30 Friday appeared first on Meanjin.

Mont Aigual

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/09/2019 - 9:00am in

Tags 

poetry

Dang, sorry. This is only available to a Meanjin subscriber. But we can fix that. It’s just $100 for print or $50 for digital. DIGITAL PRINT

The post Mont Aigual appeared first on Meanjin.

Magonia on Right-Wing Tories and UFOs

Going through a stack of old copies of the small press UFO magazine, Magonia, yesterday evening I came across a couple of articles, which mentioned the bizarre attitudes of two right-wing Tory MPs. One of these was a humorous piece about the Eurosceptic politico Teddy Taylor, who was beating his drum against the EU because they wanted to set up a commission to study UFOs. The article was in Magonia 48 for January 1994, titled ‘Watch the skies – and your wallets’ and ran

According to newspaper reports, Eurosceptic Tory MP Teddy Taylor has been looking into a potentially profitable new gravy-train for clued-up ufologists. In a Parliamentary question to Trade and Industry Secretary Michael Heseltine about “unidentified flying objects and aliens in the asteroid belt”, and their “implications for public policy” he has been trying to shake loose information on a ‘fact-finding tour’ (i.e. publically funded bunfight) about UFOs by Euro MPs. Taylor fumes: “These MEPs have been swanning around Europe asking people if they’ve seen one. They’ve come to the staggering conclusion that aliens might exist, but that you can’t be certain.” Amazingly, it appears the European parliament is considering setting up a Euro UFO Observation Centre as an official European Institution. “This may sound fun, but it makes me angry. My constituents have lost jobs because of the EC’s incompetence and nuttery.”

It makes us angry too – if the EC (sorry, EU) is throwing money at UFOs, why is none of it coming our way? We are investigating. You have not heard the last of this. Brussels, be warned!

The second is more serious, and comes from a review of Nick Redfern’s On the Trail of the Saucer Spies: UFOs and Government Surveillance (Anomalist Books 2006) In Magonia 92, June 2006, p. 18. Redfern’s book also claims that various extreme right-wing groups have tried to infiltrate Ufology. This comes from an anonymous individual, who claims that he was a member of Special Branch tasked with combating such infiltration. This is highly debatable, as the extreme right-wing group involved was APEN, which was a hoax perpetrated by a student at Cambridge University. The supposed whistleblower also doesn’t mention real instances of right-wing infiltration, like a conference on conspiracies set up in the 1990s that gave a platform to anti-Semites and Nazis like Eustace Mullins, or how some of them also joined the ‘Witness Support Group’. This was supposed to be a group to support people, who had witnessed UFOs or been abducted by aliens. Its newsletter, Rapport, contained some extremely nasty anti-immigrant ravings by a member of the BNP, who put all his hate into sub-Kiplingesque poetry. The group ended in tragedy when one its members committed suicide after some moron told them they were under CIA surveillance.

But the Magonians also pointed out in the review that one of the leaders of the big British UFO organisation, BUFORA, Patrick Wall, also had very extreme right-wing views and deeply unsavoury connections.

And if we are going on about the far right connections of ufology, then what about BUFORA’s one time President Patrick Wall, often regarded as the most racist and reactionary of all post-War Tory MPs. Wall was associated with a shadowy ‘anti-communist’ movement, the World Anti-Communist League, said to be financed by Saudi Arabia and Taiwan (then under the dictatorship of Chiang Kai Shek), and involved in channelling funds to all sorts of extreme right organisations, and used to channel money for the CIA to help set up the Provisional IRA.

With friends like that, who needs to do any infiltrating?

Actually, if Teddy Taylor was worried about politicians with weird views about UFOs wasting public money, he needn’t have gone as far as the EU. One was much closer to home in the shape of the Earl of Clancarty, otherwise known as Brinsley Le Poer Trench. Trench was a market gardener, who inherited a place in the House of Lords as he was a cousin of an Anglo-Irish lord. He was very racist, anti-immigrant, and a supporter of Ian Smith’s Whites-only government in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He also believed in UFOs, ancient astronauts and that the Earth was hollow and inhabited by subterranean civilisations. In 1979 he organised a debate in the House on UFOs, in which he also asked questions about what the government knew about alien bases in the asteroid belt. Uncovered Editions published the documents from the debate as a book in the 1990s. Trench’s debate was notorious at the time, and one of the countercultural presses published a piece about it, calling it ‘a most visionary and loony debate’.

Finally, why the EU was certainly flawed, membership in it is far preferable to the chaos and economic destruction that’s going to hit this country if the Eurosceptics like Taylor get their way. MEPs spending public money to ask people if they’ve seen alien spacecraft is a small price to pay for jobs, proper funding for industry, access to the single market and working migrants and students bringing their skills and hard work to this country.

“To Teachers Who Hope to Inspire Their Students” (and other poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/08/2019 - 2:22pm in

The following is a guest post*  of poems  by Felicia Nimue Ackerman, professor of philosophy at Brown University. 

To Teachers Who Hope to Inspire Their Students

I never had a teacher more inspiring than Ms. Burr.
She led me to resolve that I would never be like her.

+ + + + +

To Those Who Think the Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living

Lloyd always acts without thinking.
Reflection is hardly for him.
Lillian’s mind has been shrinking.
Dementia is making her dim.

Both find enjoyment in living. 
So don’t be so ready to scoff. 
Why are you so unforgiving? 
How harsh to be writing them off.

+ + + + +

To Cynthia Ozick** 

Aesthetics and logic,
Injustice and war:
Philosophers ponder
These topics and more.

We needn’t relinquish
This varying focus.
Our field would be meager
With only one locus.

**The novelist and essayist Cynthia Ozick says, “Novelists, poets, philosophers and theologians agree: Mortality, that relentless law of universal carnage, is the sole worthy human preoccupation.”

+ + + + +

In Praise of Campus Culture Wars***

A campus that is truly free
Has denizens who disagree.
There isn’t any culture war
In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
 
***A slightly different version of this poem appeared in The Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2018.   

The post “To Teachers Who Hope to Inspire Their Students” (and other poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Revolutionary Poets Society

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/08/2019 - 2:58am in

Tags 

poetry

I’m teaching a course on slam poetry as part of our first year experience (FYE) initiative here at CofC. This course is titled the “Revolutionary Poets Society” and it is a reboot of an after-school club I facilitated when I was teaching middle school.

The Revolutionary Poets Society focuses on global opportunities to respond to the demands of the moment through poetry, music and art. Students will learn about the roots of slam poetry — the Harlem Renaissance, Confessional & Beat poetry, the Black Arts Movement, performance art, and hip-hop.

We focus on the development of vocabulary and a set of critical, literacy, and performance approaches to help enable engagement with slam poems and spoken-word poems on aesthetic terms. Students present in a poetry slam at the end of the semester.

The current syllabus for this class is available here. I’m using this website to serve as my learning management system and share all materials. I hope you’ll join us over the coming weeks as we think, discuss, and write.

I’ll use the hashtag #RevolutionaryPoets to organize all materials across social media (mostly Twitter). I’ll encourage my students to share materials and follow along on the discussion there. Please join us.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to study a wide range of examples of storytelling, folklore, myth, in order to capture the dynamic of storytelling, its “dialogue” with the culture in which it exists, and its diversity across cultures. The course will investigate the storyteller as a performer and author in the role of persuader, creative writer and, in everyday life, as the conveyor of information more personally, subjectively and effectively. 

 

The course is designed to develop the critical listening, reading, viewing and research skills required when encountering and creating storytelling as performed texts. The course will suggest a way of approaching literary and performance-based stories in a process that will strengthen and deepen skills of observation, deep listening and awareness of cultural norms outside our individual cultural experiences, practices and knowledge. The principal sources of study are contemporary storytellers and spoken word artists in the US, Mediterranean Europe, Africa and Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas in a variety of storytelling categories: performance poetry, storytelling with music, dramatic monologues, rap and hip-hop, biographical representations and vocal choreography with multiple storytellers. Through critical reading and active listening to the texts, we will study meaning as it is generated through the use of language with attention to word choice, rhythm, rhyme & tempo the use of gesture integrated or juxtaposed with text the use of the whole body in space. 

Course Materials

The main text of the course is Season One of the Dissect Podcast. Dissect is a serialized music podcast in which host Cole Cuchna examines a single album, “forensically dissecting the music of one song per episode.” Season 1 examines “To Pimp a Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar. Subscribe to Dissect on SpotifyApple PodcastsStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The course will also utilize other varied YouTube videos, audio clips, and related materials. I’ll share all of this out over the coming posts.

Get started

For the first week, get the Dissect Podcast loaded on your podcatcher of choice, and listen to Episode One of Season One, titled “Compton, K Dot, and Kendrick Lamar”.

The following interview with Kendrick Lamar from the Noisey channel will help supplement the first episode.

Please note

As I indicate to students in my class, we go to great lengths to provide a safe environment to read, write, explore, and share. We talk about tough subjects and we get to some pretty raw places. I say this as a way to let you know that my students may share…or may choose not to.

I also say this as an indicator that my students are watching…and others are watching as well. Please be respectful as we engage and connect.

Lastly, this is a class for a group of freshman in a higher education classroom. I think these materials are acceptable for a high school or secondary classroom as well, but your results may vary. Please understand there will be NSFW language and topics. I will not censor the messages being shared, and I will not censor my students.

Consider yourself warned.

If you’d like to join us, or assist in this, send me an email (wiobyrne@gmail.com). I’d love to have you in for an interview, or guest lecture. I’m also reaching out to people to conduct lectures and share these out as podcasts to use in the course materials.

But…enough about the details. Have fun diving in to the podcast…and we’ll get started next week.

Image credit

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/07/2019 - 5:19am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

July 11, 2019 [back after holiday break] David Adler, policy director at DiEM25, on Syriza’s loss in Greece (Guardian article here) • Joel Whitney, author of this article, on Pablo Neruda and his flight from the CIA

Book on What’s Really Needed for Artificial Intelligence: Emotion, Spirituality and Creativity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/07/2019 - 8:57pm in

The Muse in the Machine: Computers and Creative Thought, by David Gelernter (London: Fourth Estate 1994).

I came across this book looking around one of Cheltenham’s secondhand bookshops yesterday. I haven’t read it yet, but I fully intend to. Although it was published nearly a quarter of a century ago, I think the issue it addresses is still very real, and one that isn’t acknowledged by many computer scientists. And it’s immensely provocative. Gelernter argues here that the brain is not like a computer, and by concentrating on rationality and logic, computer scientists aren’t developing genuine Artificial Intelligence – true minds – but simply faster calculating machines. What is needed instead is creativity and inspiration, and that can only come from emotion and spirituality.

The blurb for the book in the inside cover runs

Is Artificial Intelligence really getting any closer to understanding the workings of the brain? Or is it, despite generations of smarter, more logical reasoning machines and more refined philosophical theories, missing the point? Is the AI model, for all its apparent sophistication, simply too crude?

David Gelernter believes that it is. In this dazzling, powerfully persuasive new book he argues that conventional AI theory is fatally flawed, ignoring as it does the emotional elements in the human mind. AI can go on improving its creations as much as it likes, but as long as it insists upon seeing the mind as a machine, it will always been building machines and not minds.

It’s time to tackle a fundamental truth: feeling isn’t incidental to thought, a pleasant diversion or unwelcome distraction. It’s essential, a precondition and part of all our thinking. A mind that can’t be irrational can’t be rational; a machine that can’t feel can’t think.

Spirituality is not failed science, anymore than poetry is botched prose. Significant as recent developments have been, suggests Gelernter, the real renaissance is yet to come. The new science of the mind will involve art and theology as closely as it does technology, and will owe as much Wordsworth and Keats as to Papert and Minsky.

Bound to cause a furore in the field of Artificial Intelligence, the Muse in the Machine has far wider implications than this, and far great importance. It is a book which demands to be read by everyone who values human thought and its achievements. If it offers much to intrigue and to provoke in its daring, wide-ranging discussion of the mind and its workings, it provides much, too, to delight and move.

It’s probably no surprise that Gelernter believes that art, literature and spirituality/ theology should also be important components of genuine machine intelligence. Not only is he credited as an associate professor computer science at Yale University, but also a lover of philosophy and published poet, with an MA in Classical Hebrew Literature.

For all that the book and its thesis were – and no doubt still are – controversial, he has correctly identified a major problem. Other philosophers and scientists, both of computers and the human brain, have pointed out that the brain isn’t a computer. Rather, the computer is simply the latest metaphor for the brain. Before then, the metaphor was of an immense telephone exchange. And before that, in the 17th century, when modern neurology was only just beginning, it was as a series of fountains. I also understand that many neurologists now believe, following the ideas of the paranormal researcher Stan Gooch, that much of human thought and cognition actually occurs deeper in the more primitive sections of the brain, connected with emotion. And I can imagine many atheists distinctly unsettled by the idea that true rationality also requires a spiritual, religious and theological component. That’s enough to send Richard Dawkins completely up the wall!

It’s going to be an very interesting, provocative book, and one I shall look forward to reading. And I’ll definitely post about it when I have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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