Saturday, January 25, 2014

Telecommunications and my dad

Digging back into the old memoir, Rocket Lessons (forthcoming from who-knows-where, who-knows-when) to rehab some of the chapters as short essays to submit here and there, I discovered one about my father's biggest project, the launch of the world's first telecommunications satellite, Relay I. As it turned out, it was by five months the world's second telecommunications satellite, but as my father always liked to point out, "It's still up there and Telstar died in a matter of months." As I wrote, I researched and learned something thrilling: John F. Kennedy had made a speech about global peace being enabled by the promise of global communications. Talk about prescient.

Remember the days before you could telephone another continent? Yeah, neither do I, but that was a mere fifty years ago. Remember before the Internet? I do, and that was only forty years ago. There's a woman alive who remembers before you could realistically take a plane to Europe. Back when the oceans made us very separate from other places. It's hard to envision global anything without the ability to phone anywhere you want, or for the president to.

So thanks, Dad. We sat up all night waiting for you to make the first intercontinental, satellite-deflected phone call to us from the tracking station in Argentina. The fact that it never came to us, but awakened someone in England instead, due to a little bump in the satellite's orbit, doesn't matter as much as it did when I was twelve. Thanks to you, and all those other slide-rule wielding rocket engineers, I can write this and have it reach friends in India or Europe immediately. Who knows if that promotes peace, but it sure can't hurt.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bloghopping - Lynn Domina's Poetry Book Review-a-Week & The Crafty Poet

Gods of Water and Air
Lynn Domina, a poet with three published collections (so she should understand the value of a book review), undertakes a blogging goal that leaves me breathless: reviewing a poetry book every week. Since I can barely make it through reading a book a week, I'm in awe. Not only her productivity, but her eloquence and insight are impressive. These aren't fluff reviews; they're the real deal. Lynn's reviews offer analysis and comment, and are delivered through such finely close reading as to delight any poet intrigued by craft. (What poet isn't?) She pays close attention form, whether received or nonce, authoritatively analyzing its structure and bringing her own tastes subtly into her analysis. I will be following her weekly reviews.

Because of Lynn Domina's attention to craft and form, it's a natural that she should review Diane Lockward's recent meaty and thought-provoking craft/prompt book, The Crafty Poet. I've given this book to poet friends because I believe it to be uniquely suited to stimulate and support the writing of poetry. The prompts in it go deeper than free association, with ideas not just for inspiring but also for shaping the poem. Each craft tip invites the poet to use several devices, with a range of choices in each device. Diane includes sample poems that were written in response to the prompt. I've never seen a craft book structured as an anthology.

Disclaimer: I have a poem in the book, so you have to take my rave review with that grain of salt. It was written in response to Diane's "Craft Tip #26: When the Poem Won't Show Up." The tip/prompt makes use of an initial phrase, chosen by you or a group leader, after which you free write for twenty minutes without stopping. Here's my poem:


In a back-and-forth wind,
the showers hit different places
on the walls and skylights,
make different plinks and raps,
like an instrument of wood
struck by wood.

Caroling, the finches descant.

You go away. I come close
to the perilous edge. Down there
the rocks are far and hard,
the waves a million drummers
marching in all directions.

The finches trill their whirst,
whirst, whirst! They detonate decibels,
tiny firecrackers in the watery air.
Worst is their trill today.

You come back. The silence grows
small shoots on the walls
of the well my heart became.
Rain falls deeply in, musical.

I step back miles
from the cliffs, listening
to singular notes,
suddenly tall enough
to send out my own
from where I had tucked them
back inside.