Feb 18, 2015

Lou, Inkpen & MARGENTO Computational Poetry Paper Accepted to FLAIRS Conference

The paper “Multilabel Subject-based Classifi cation of Poetry” by Andr es Lou, Diana Inkpen, and Chris T an asescu (MARGENTO) has been accepted to the 28th Florida Artificial Intelligence Research Society–FLAIRS–Conference; the paper is part of the ampler MARGENTO project Poetry Computational Graphs and the Graph Poem.
Here is the abstract:
Multilabel Subject-based Classi cation of Poetry
by Andr es Lou, Diana Inkpen, and Chris T an asescu (MARGENTO)
University of Ottawa, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Oftentimes, the question “what is this poem about?” has no trivial answer, regardless of length, style, author, or context in which the poem is found. We propose a simple system of multilabel classifi cation of poems based on their subjects following the categories and subcategories as laid out by the Poetry Foundation. We make use of a model that combines the methodologies of tf-idf and Latent Dirichlet Allocation for feature extraction, and a Support Vector Machine model for the classi fication task. We determine how likely it is for our models to correctly classify each poem they read into one or more main categories and subcategories. Our contribution is, thus, a new method to automatically classify poetry given a set and various subsets of categories.

Feb 3, 2015


[A slightly shorter version of this note first appeared on Asymptote's blog HERE)

“Eutychia” has been identified by Simona Popescu—poet, critic, and foremost authority on Romanian poet Gellu Naum’s (1915 – 2001) work and life—as the Naumian poem par excellence, not in the sense that all the rest of his huge oeuvre is contained in it, but as being one of the most comprehensive and emblematic expressions of the poet’s creed and poetics.  And particularly of the unmistakable way in which for such a poet poetry was not only an art, but a mode of existence. 

A visionary, a great shaman—le grand chaman de Roumanie, as a French critic once called him—whose poems have always worked as Pythic oracles, Naum was also an incredibly shrewd and inclusive craftsman; the very personable and humorously playful person that he was in everyday life was the same as the artist who integrated biographical details, political critique, and popular culture (along with his erudite and alchemically-oneiric intertexts) into his mesmerizing rhythms, expansive diction, and enthralling imagery.  Although—or rather particularly because—he was a true  poeta vates, a poet-prophet, he did not look down on the ‘trivialities’ of ‘common’ existence, while his corrosive ironies never settled upon postmodern detachment, and therefore, instead of rendering the verse flat, his absorption of the ‘insignificant’ actually turned the everyday into something magical, miraculous, and overwhelming.

The psychedelic experience of watching an insect and its colors at the closest range possible, for instance, triggers a sort of meta-rational ‘derangement of the sense[s]’ that helps one to see and hear a poetry of the species and, at the same time, an ecopoetry avant la lettre:

so the psychedelic colored insect
waits for me
with its shape reminiscent of triangular bombardments
the insect-poet looking at me with its deep blue-green eye
struck dumb on an unripe raspberry
the sole survivor of a long extinct species
the newly arrived insect-poet set to witness crazy
death by tragic multiplication
as I am certain it recognizes me
as far back

as when the times got tangled
I sit on a rock and look forward
through tangled times
as a psychedelic age arrives while the rest is merely
a golden blue-green ethereal triangular insect
trying to communicate words

In fact the title of the poem itself, which could be translated as “true luck” or “good fortune” (from Old Greek) speaks of a search for, or conjuring of good omens, of what brings good luck and a good fate, the poem thus assuming the functions of an amulet or a spell.  Yet this is not solely about one’s personal fate, as the root of the word, Týche (Roman equivalent: Fortuna) was in ancient times the presiding tutelary deity that governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny.  This city, one starts to suspect while plunging into Naum’s ocean of images, is one of the whole world (humans, nature, and cosmos together), and contemplating its destiny is having a vision of—to paraphrase Eliot—its end in its beginning; and both its beginning and end are fractally present in our insect-tiny “daily events”: “Only when beginning at the end are we able to understand/ the nostalgic mechanics of daily events the fury of layers preceding and/ following us…”

The surprising relevance of such a poet nowadays (famous in Romania and widely known in France and Germany but until recently virtually unknown to the English-speaking world) is most likely one of the reasons why his recent selected poems in (facing page) translation, Athanor & Other Pohems from Calypso Editions, was unsurprisingly named by World Literature Today one of 2013’s most notable translations.

One of the Romanian poets I would love to see featured in Asymptote in a near future is Șerban Foarță.  Foarță is one of the greatest writers in postwar Romania who, because of his subtle, euphonic, and pervasive formalism has hardly been, if ever, translated into English (or any other language, for that matter). 

A versatile and tirelessly prolific practitioner of forms ranging from the ‘classic’ and troubadour traditions to rock lyrics to experimental chiasmic “holograms,” the poet has over decades authored an oeuvre of such pitch, variety, and amplitude that one could indeed—as younger poet Emilian Galaicu-Păun allegedly (jocosely but relevantly) did before meeting the writer in the flesh—suspect that behind his name hides an entire institute of philology and poetics. 

A masterful and acclaimed translator in his own right, with an overwhelmingly diverse and demanding list of accomplishments—from the French Renaissance poets to Leonard Cohen’s Book of Desire to Mallarmé and Apollinaire to Georgio Baffo’s ErosonnetsFoarță himself represents a huge challenge to the most courageous translator.  Well… except when he includes the translation in the text itself, as in this multilingual poem I can quote without having to translate anything but the (actually already a thousand-time translated Villon’s ballad) title—BALADA DOAMNELOR DE ALTĂDATĂ (“Ballad of the Ladies of Bygone Times”)… Still, even the simplest things are not that simple: how could one ever render the subtitle, with its pun on Babylon and François Villon’s name—“în vavil(l)onică transcripţie”—“In Babylonian/Vavil(l)onian Transcription”?…  Until we find an answer, here is one stanza and the envoi of this brilliant poem:

Where is the wise girl Heloïs
Because whose abelardiana
Calamitas à Saint Denis
Incepit (Domine, hossana!);
E dov’è ora la sovrana
Die nun befahl daß Buridan
Verschlungen sein soll, a Sequana;
A gde prekrasnîi snej d’antan?
Sweet Prince, I don’t say omnia vana;
mais quant, enfin, à l’antean-
nua nix, ~ frag, bitte, die Morgana:
« Où sont, où sont les neiges d’antan? »


Dec 1, 2014


Issue 7--to the frivolous interlopers (HERE!!!)
Featuring Elizabeth Bertoldi, Volodymyr Bilyk, Selina Boan, Craig Calhoun, Ariel Gonzalez Losada, MARGENTO, a rawlings & Sachiko Murakami, sven staelens, Carol Stetser, Tom Walmsley and Liz Worth.

Oct 21, 2014

ASYMPTOTE New Issue--Fall 2014

Now with MARGENTO as Editor-at-Large
Welcome to our mythology edition! Catch our video trailer here. From the "kiss of death" Danish textbook representative Erik Langkjær shared with Flannery O'Connor—in an exclusive account sixty years after the fact—to the "synthetic saint" in Tedi López Mills' experimental poetry and the "divine fairy tale" in Shi Tiesheng's memoir of disability, modern myth permeates this issue, knocking elbows with characters from old-world mythology.

You'll find an aging Minotaur transplanted to Amsterdam's red-light district, Hamlet's Norse ancestor reincarnated in operatic form, and biblical vine-growers at a corporate event schmoozing up to their ultimate shareholder, God. What's more, many of this issue's writers and poets are themselves legendary figures: Mohammed Said Abdulla and Ch'oe In-ho blazed a trail for fiction in Tanzania and South Korea respectively, whereas Ukraine's Serhiy Zhadan and Bengal's Joy Goswami belong to that rare breed: poet superstars.

In our annual English poetry feature, poets take up myth, not simply as lie or cultural truth, but as the literary process by which certain narratives and images become naturalized, privileged, contested, and abandoned: Mary Jo Bang dramatizes a mythologization of the self in an atmosphere of surveillance; Michael Farrell recontextualizes Australian icons into what might be "socially involved and meaningful / role(s)"; and Zhou Sivan employs Greek, Chinese, and Catalan myths to question nationhood and reproductive love. Among our translated poets, the Japanese futurist Hirato Renkichi studies the "line between the past and present and future, in ecstasy;" Euphrase Kezilahabi's poet-figure enters "this forest / full of a century's darkness," emerging as the modern Swahili writer he is today; while Galician writer María do Cebreiro depicts a fragmented lover's discourse.

A central motif in myth, transformation recurs in many of this issue's stories (as well as in Brazilian artist Odires Mlászho's "Altered Books"). In "News of a Girl Lost at Sea," an ignorant peasant woman is transformed into a saint for muttering the same nonsensical line every night (because, it turns out, "God doesn't care about the quality of the prayers themselves, just about the will behind them"). In J. Rodolfo Wilcock's "Aram Kugiungian," transformation—and an extreme case of identity crisis—occur when our twenty-three-year-old protagonist suddenly realizes "he was also someone else or, indeed, several others." In the excerpt from Ch'oe's Another Man's Story, set in a mysterious café, an ex-brother-in-law suddenly reappears before the protagonist—as a woman. More familial drama—with exes and in-laws—unfolds over a game of Monopoly in Ulrike Syha's tightly drawn "Do Not Pass Go." With vivid colors and expressive strokes, Monika Grubizna, our talented guest artist, captures these and our new issue's many other moments of Sturm und Drang.

With our fourth anniversary just around the corner, we're pleased to unveil a slew of events—in addition to our stops in Beijing on October 20 and in Hong Kong on November 6, appearances in fifteen more cities worldwide are being planned for our celebrations between January and April 2015. (Keep your eye on our Events page or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking Asymptote news!) For our special feature in April 2015, we will be traveling fifty years back in time to explore the Vietnam War and its legacy. As you check out this feature's submission guidelines, don't forget that we also welcome submissions for our blog, which recently celebrated its first anniversary with the launch of a "New in Translation" column, reviewing the latest titles each month.

Finally, if you're excited by all that we've done and will do to stimulate the transmission of world literature, we want you to know that there are ways in which you can help. Consider a donation (we're newly tax-deductible in the US!) or a video endorsement for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. Or just spread the word by downloading our high-resolution Fall issue flyer and getting it displayed at your local independent bookstore/school/café. After all, myths—and the best literary projects—continue only as long as people keep sharing them.
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Asymptote© 2014

Sep 23, 2014


(initially publishedd by Dan Gulea on his own blog here)

Experimentul Margento continuă cu Nomadosofia / Nomadosophy (2012), un poem ce înconjoară lumea alături de Chris & Raluca Tanasescu, un graf-poem la care participă toți ceilalți poeți care au format identitatea margentă, de la Hafiz și Robert Browning, la Frank Zappa sau Wislawa Szymborska, un poem al eului proiectat pe fundalul lumii pe care Chris Tanasescu, poet, muzician, conferențiar, îl creează de mai mulți ani.

Din acest experiment ce vizează completitudinea, Margento a ales în ultima vreme dimensiunea managerială, reușind să traducă în română importanți poeți americani, parte a marelui său poem, precum Jerome Rothenberg (2013) și Seymour Maine (2014), iar peste ocean să „ducă” poeți români, precum Gellu Naum (Athanor & Other Pohems, în colaborare cu Martin Woodside, 2014). Traduceri, urmate de comentarii mai întîi în reviste și efemeride, apoi în volume: toți aceștia, deja prezenți în indexul de poeți de la finalul acestui volum, ce arată, în fond, un program poetic de primă clasă, neinstituționalizat, în care doar arhitectura personală, „în desfășurare”, exprimă alegerile. Demers de primă clasă, pentru că, dincolo de originalitatea poematică (evidentă și prin așezarea în pagină, o permutare lettrică de Maiakovski & Mircea Ivănescu), Chris Tanasescu vine cu (in)formația universitară, fiind „la curent” cu cele mai importante schimbări în poezia contemporană, integrîndu-se așadar poeziei mondiale și depășind astfel eternul provincialism mizerabilist al autohtonilor, veșnic inspirați de „realitatea socială”.

Volumul este așadar unul polemic față de lumea noastră artistică, consacrînd un alt tip de poezie, fără a ocoli temele dureroase, provocatoare; acesta este apanajul Asiei (urmare a stagiului lui Chris Tanasescu de mai multe anotimpuri în Vietnam), cu poeți și scriitori precum U Sam Oeur (cu experiența lagărului cambodgian), Nguyen Tien Van (universitar vietnamez), Leonard Ng (din Singapore), dublați de clasicii „tradiționali” ai lumii orientale: curtezana Yu Xuanji (secolul IX), Sri Praj (poetul Siamului), Hafiz, marele persan.
Alături de lumea americană și de cea a Europei de Răsărit (de la Polonia „încoace”), universul nomadopoetic stă sub semnul țiganului călător, care deschide și închide volumul: „Țigan alfabet, cânt acordeon Roma”, autoipostaziere ironică, peste care se află mai multe uși de închidere, cea mai importantă: indexul final, intitulat „Margento, trupa, traducătorii”, de unde am selectat numele de mai sus.

Nomadosofia este așadar o minte ce se cuprinde, poemul ce se comentează, prin stihiile constitutive ale românului: Orientul (mai apropiat sau mai depărtat), Occidentul (America de Nord) și proiecția acestuia imigraționistă, lumea „original-americană”, lumea ce a devenit americană după câteva generații de emigrați polonezi, sloveni, evrei, sîrbi (exemplificată, de pildă, de Jerome Rothenberg). Carte de autor și antologie în același timp, „înțelepciunea călătorului” cuprinde sensurile existenței-trecere, de la efemerul social la cel existențial; și, totuși, cartea nu e totul: Margento există atunci cînd interpretează, cînd performează, așa cum o arată chitara de pe coperta imaginată de Grigore Negrescu.

Aug 11, 2014

JOANNE DOMINIQUE DWYER Interview in Identity Theory

By J. Dee Cochran

Joanne Dominique Dwyer was born in Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY. She has lived in New Mexico for most of her adult life. Dwyer has been published in various journals, such as The American Poetry Review, Conduit, The Florida Review, Gulf Coast, The Massachusetts Review, The New England Review, Poetry, TriQuarterly and others. She received a Rona Jaffe award and holds an MFA from Warren Wilson. Her first book of poems, Belle Laide, was published by Sarabande in 2013.
J. Dee Cochran: Belle Laide, your debut book of poems, celebrates wild associations and varying themes. And yet, the book feels very cohesive. Could you talk a bit about how the book came about and how the poems were ordered? Did you anticipate each poem coming together in one book as you were writing them?
Joanne Dominique Dwyer: I appreciate your saying that Belle Laide feels cohesive. I suppose it is because of the writing style and the repetitive obsessive themes. But the poems in Belle Laide were not penned collectively; they were not written with the thought of a book in mind. They were not construed consciously to become cohabitating members of a club or tribe, to live together communally sharing gardens and kitchen duty someday within the tenement walls of a book. They were written as urgent orphans eking out a living by foraging on roadside herbs in the Diaspora of both desiccated and jungle terrains, and in the overcrowded refugee camps of dream borderlands. Absolve me the playful overwriting and the melodrama – the key here is urgent – each poem was written in a moment or a day – and revised the next day and subsequent day and sometimes years. But at the moment of conception to write a poem, providing we are privileged, the impulse is always present on varying levels – to write or die. The writer feels this exigency to make poems or perish.
Writing that is truly worth reading – let’s say, more than once, is usually written by a writer for whom writing is a vocation, rather than an occupation. But what I wanted to comment on here is my use above of the wordprivileged. While great writing comes from the urgency of vocation (and not all of us writing from urgency are therefore great writers), I believe it is a privilege to have the time to write. So many of the world’s population are living in conditions in which there are no real opportunities to write; life is at a survival level of having the basic human needs met. So it feels a privilege to me that I have food, shelter, safety, and time in which to pacify the urgency and that my urgency is not one of quelling physical hunger, but creative and psychological hunger.
For me, writing poems is a way to make sense of what might simply be construed as nonsense. So often there is an overabundance of information and sensory stimulation circulating and pelleting down all around us, like the type of hail that cracks our windshields. I write to calm down the ecstasy-taking rave goers inside me. I write poems to convert the feelings coursing through the container of my body into something concrete.
It is difficult to make a statement and find any permanent or lasting truth in that statement. No sooner is something uttered, than the opposite arises, like a clown at a funeral to convince you life is not sad, but comedic – or the reverse. For example, I stated moments ago that I write to make random coursing feelings concrete. And immediately it occurs to ask, Can anything be concrete, especially a work of art such as a poem, which is created by an individual? And furthermore, is there any such entity as an individual? Meaning a poem is written by a certain someone and comes from within their field of feeling, their field of thought. But who among us has an original feeling or thought? We are so interwoven and interconnected; so full of incestuous relationships; so influenced by everything we have ever read and by the myriad molecules of ancestral and collective matter bombarding us relentlessly. So what makes any author seem/appear original? Does it just come down to the way we string the 26 letters of the alphabet together?
But I was speaking of the impossibility to make something concrete: actual, tangible, solid. The poem in its form on the page is a concrete thing. Its intangible quality comes through the limitless interpretations a poem elicits as read through the lens of the multifarious individual readers.
And to answer your question about ordering the poems in Belle Laide: sequencing was very difficult for me. Though I believe as we mature as writers, the more detached from our writing we become. That detachment allows us to cut loose the poems that are not up to snuff. At first the poems are all our precious beauties that we want to cling to, but we must fearlessly reject and send home the contestants that are not going to do well in all three categories: bathing suit, talent and evening gown. That detachment allows us to be better revisionists of our poems. It took me many, many tries to get Belle Laide in the shape that Sarabande Books received it.
J. Dee Cochran: This book is a crowded house of arresting personalities.Belle Laide offers cameos from Marvin Gaye, Freud, Carl Jung, St. Augustine, Nick Drake, Kahil Gibran’s Jesus, Don Quixote, Billie Holiday, St. Teresa, to name a few. The narrator also refers to lovers, a brother and son.
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