Saturday, October 31, 2020

"An island wild and free": Pink Pedrazzi's EP "The Island"

The title song of Pink Pedrazzi's EP "The Island" imagines escaping from "the pain and injuries of reality" on "a cold December day" to "an island wild and free", and the remaining four songs further ponder desires to be elsewhere. "Soul King" finds an alternative reality in music's "moments of no gravity", while the gold-rush story of "The Fartherest Tip of the Moon" explores the dark side of escaping the world. That darker side leads to "Save Me", a call for salvation from being "imprisoned in one's aching body." Finally, the EP's conclusion, "If It Suits You", resolves all these tensions: "as long as you are mine, everything will be alright." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 31 October)

Friday, October 30, 2020

40 masks at middle school in Basel

Last Friday, we received a letter from Sara's middle school (Sekundarschule) about the extension of the mask-wearing requirement at the school, as well as the cancellation of sports classes. The letter also pointed out that attending primary school and middle school in Basel is free, so Sara and her fellow pupils would not have to provide their own masks. Instead, they could pick up a mask each day at the entrance to the school, and as soon as the school could order enough masks, they would be given a supply of masks that could last them for several weeks. So today, Sara came home with forty hygiene masks in her backpack. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 30 October)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

"Two versions of the first person": Vernon Klinkenborg on Wendell Berry

In his review of "What I Stand On", the Library of America's two-volume collection of essays by Wendell Berry, Vernon Klinkenborg contrasts "two versions of the first person [...] in Berry's nonfiction". The first speaks of Berry and his physical position in the world: “I am writing this in the north-central part of Kentucky on a morning near the end of June.” For Klinkenborg, such sentences "breathe with the life of the body." The second is "the logical first person" that talks about what's going on in the writing with phrases like "as I have been trying to show". As Klinkenborg argues, there's no body – and nobody – in this "logical" construction. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 October)


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Comparative rates for a few countries for positive coronavirus tests today

Switzerland's population was officially just over 8.5 million people in 2019, and today the official number of positive tests for coronavirus is 8,616. So one out of every thousand people in the country tested positive on this one day alone, Wednesday, 28 October 2020. By comparison, the official 2019 estimate for the population of the United States was just over 328 million people, and according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus site, there were 73,621 positive tests today, which comes to approximately one out of every 4,500 people. The corresponding number for Germany is approximately one out of every 6,300 people, while for France, it's approximately one out of every 2,000 people. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 October)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Write one song; read one poem

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night to promote a new album ("Love is the King") and a book, "How To Write One Song". He explained that he doesn't write songs in the plural; rather, he writes one song, and then he writes another song. This idea of working not with genre but with each individual work also comes up in Stephanie Burt's "Don't Read Poetry": she argues that one should not talk about reading poetry but about reading poems, with each poem understood on its own terms. I'm only a poet when I'm writing  a poem, only a songwriter when writing a song. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 27 October)

Monday, October 26, 2020

Waiting for 3-4 November

Today, I'm surely not the only one who's reached the point where I don't want to read anything more about the US election next week – no polls, no opinion pieces, no news about who's speaking where and whether or not they're wearing masks and practicing social distancing. I cast my vote by mail several weeks ago, and I just want it to be 3 November already – or in my case, since I live in Switzerland and vote absentee from here – I want it be 4 November, when I will get up between 5 and 6 am to check the news from just before midnight on the East Coast in the US. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 26 October)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Writing poetry with Denise Levertov in the 1980s

In Winter Quarter 1986, I took the first of two poetry workshops with Denise Levertov at Stanford. Ohad to apply for the course, so all the participants had some experience writing poetry, and Denise generally didn't do exercises or assign tasks. Instead, she just had us bring in poems for discussion with her and the group. Her emphasis was on free verse in the tradition of William Carlos Williams that she herself wrote in, so there was much discussion of line breaks and of focusing on images rather than abstractions. Even today, my writing is still influenced by her, even though most of my poetry is now in meter and rhyme. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 25 October)