M. D. Friedman's Poetry Blog

Orignal poetry and reflections from one the internet's favorite poets.

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Location: Lafayette, Colorado, United States

M. D. Friedman is a poet, teacher, musician, photographer, digital artist and web master from Lafayette, Colorado where he resides with his wife, Mariamne Engle Friedman, and his son, Max.  In the spring of 2006 he retired from teaching in the public education factories to pursue the creative arts.  His fourth book of poetry, Where We Reach, was recently released and combines his poetry with his original photographs and artwork.

He is the founder of the Internet Poets’ Cooperative website which features over 20 free volumes of e-books from poets around the world and over 200 free audio recordings of dozens of Colorado poets reading their own work. His newest web site, http://www.digitaldada.org, represents an effort to explore the transformational impact of digital creation on common culture. His personal web site, http://www.mdfriedman.com offers access to all of M. D. Friedman’s creative ventures.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Know Where to Go Crazy, a Digital Poem by M. D. Friedman

Click to view Know Where to Go Crazy

Original poetry, sound art, visual art, photography, and animation by M. D. Friedman highlight this ground breaking video short. This work showcases a growing mastery of M. D.'s combined talents to produce experimental, experiential, electronic literature fusing several multimedia elements into a new genre of poetics. Featuring state of the art 3D animation, "Know Where to Go Crazy" (2009) is a two voice poem with the second voice heard animated into the viewer's head. 

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Forever Trespass

Click to View

"Forever Trespass” (2007) is a digital poem exploring the question, "Does the poem own the poet or the poet own poem?" The sound art for this piece was constructed from the 2D (2 directional) poem, "Forever Trespass". The "normal" voice is reading the poem vertically (down the columns) and the "harmonized" voice is reading the same poem horizontally (across the rows). The video was made by animating my photographs and digital art and integrating it with the original sound art.


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Digging The Graves Grow Bigger...

Review by M. D. Friedman

Jared Smith portrays the gritty reality of the modern American Dream in his latest book, The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations (Higganum Hill Books 2008). His heartfelt, bare-knuckled imagery sticks with you like a warm bowl of stew. His command of language consistently startles you like a wet sheet popping in a summer wind. Sometimes stark, sometimes gentle, Jared makes what is real more real, makes vivid what is hidden, and finally sets us back on our own feet to find our own way.
The opening poem of the volume, "A Silver Zipper," invites us each to look inside:
Whatever is hidden burns brightest
when the time of counting shadows end.

This poem introduces one of the major themes of the volume: how we all strive to beat our own mortality, and how all humans intuitively sense there is something more than the years we have here. It suggests there is an innate greatness to living that endures beyond the things we make and build in our own time:
Most of life is waiting for what comes in.
Most of what comes in was here before.

Beyond the buildings are estuarine islands
where a tall bird waits expectantly.

In the haunting, vernacular, title poem, "The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations," Jared weaves history and legend to further develop this theme.
I swear I'm going to remember this, and forget the graves,
and forget the markers and forget the names, but I'm going to remember
the smell of furniture polish on old oak banisters, and the dust of books,
and the coolness of old stone buildings in sleepy towns on summer days.
I'm going to remember the too bright eyes of small blonde girls
with their forced bright smiles in silent public rooms and archives
and I'm going to keep on rolling along across America unmarked,
taking the hand of each one and sweeping her off her feet,
making love with each one at the least expected time
and filling my heart with her smile and with her memory
because there is nothing larger than this that I can imagine:
the depth of shadowed rooms, a silent ray of light, purple flowers
and a woman's touch. The graves get ever bigger
from one generation unto the next.

Through this blue collar, grayscale narrative, Jared reveals a profoundly black and white truth. It is how we live that is important, not how we die.
Having so epically explored our fascination with immortality, Jared turns his pen to our difficult relationship with nature. In "Life at the Margins," he notes the irony that no matter how much damage humans do to nature, we will always be integrally linked.
We are a part of so much that is born of sun,
even as we roll away into the watch of space
devoid of hope. The shadows too are lighted.

Jared quickly expands this irony to include how human society invariably damages our own nature. In "Having Never Wanted To Own The Business," he brilliantly describes our human compulsion to own what we do with the metaphor of working away our lives trying to run a business.
A man is 26 miles of intestine stretched above a desk,
running multiple times to the snack machine and urinals,
a sensory input in an electronic web of phone calls to the infinite.
My years are gone.

Once again Jared looks to the strange miracle of our existence for an answer. In "To Be Alive," Jared articulates our situation with the words:
because what else are you going to do with
a universe when all its guts are emptied out.

He then humbly placates our plight with:
I too wish I knew what to do and how to cope,
and sometimes I think that in itself is enough
to be alive.

Throughout this manuscript, Jared challenges the poet to deal with modern societies' major issues. As we travel his landscape of sinew and gears, of transparent shadow and unifying light, we soon realize that, for Jared, it is imperative that culture live up to its responsibility, that poets have a sacred duty to lead us out of the all consuming cycles of self-poisoning and emptiness. Jared throws down his gauntlet to contemporary poets in his poem, "Why Put Up With This Anymore?"
there are ultimately no others who can come before you
whether it is by spoken words or written ones, Poet,
I cannot understand why you hang your head down
and skulk in alleys eating poverty with your words.

In this collection Jared swims through the complex floods of modern life, bobs with the joys and heartbreaks of love, and reaches for the glittering surface above greed and regret. He treads in a world of concrete and flowers, of wires and sunsets, of metal and bees, with the grace and vision of a poet seeking only the truth simply put.
It's not like street yard baseball, this poetry thing anymore,
where you used to lean back with whatever piece of wood you found
lying around and hit each clunker of coal as far as it would go.

With The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations, Jared Smith has hit one out of the park!

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Review of Amy Wray Irish's Creation Stories

Amy Wray Irish, Creation Stories
Green Fuse Community Press, 2008
Review by M.D. Friedman

In Creation Stories, a collection of original art and poetry, Amy Wray Irish creates a song of magic for the modern world. Her work acts as a womb of skin, for the recurring themes of creation and birth, which transports us as readers to a place of primal connection where we see nothing but beauty. In this volume, Amy becomes a priestess of word and image whose incantations launch us toward the journey into ourselves that we each must take.
Creation Stories opens with ”Shed", a piece in which the inner poet and artist, is itching to get out,/Ripping and twitching/to get out ." In Lady of Moths", this inner poet reveals that she is ready to leave behind anyone or anything that would blacken her window or prevent her from creating the new world of light she needs. Like many creation stories, she starts in darkness:
Mother, tell me this is not my voice,
This air raid siren
Bringing him to his knees;
Not my anger
As she examines the corporal for answers, she simply finds more questions:
So determined are our empty
Shells. So how do we know when we
Are simply hunger in the belly how do we know
When we are something more?
Then, in the "Birth of Venus," she answers her own question and finds the goddess within herself:
In the ebb of your own blood-red sea

You become more; you are truly
Born. Venus, taste of yourself,
Of your briny ocean
Mother. Aphrodite, become goddess

Of your own love.
In the second section of the collection, the speaker is consumed as she assumes her role as creator/mother/priestess/goddess/poet/artist. I swallowed this seed, and what I consumed/Consumes me whole, belly and all. It is a feeling with which poets and artists are all too familiar. It is in this role that she finds her magical powers:
When you feel heat sear from your fingertips,
The power to take hold, to explode
When you are reborn, purified,
An archangel rising on wings of light
Only then call me. Call me your mother,
Your lover, your twin. Matching flare
To fire, to flame. We will write
And set the world to blaze.
This call to set the world to blaze with poetry is at the heart of all the efforts of our Green Fuse Community. We must thank Amy Irish for this wonderful romp through "visionary states that flower /Beyond imagination".

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Robert King Interviews M. D. Friedman About His Digital Poetry

Interview about Digital Poetry
1) You’re a photographer, musician, and digital artist as well as a poet. You do these things separately, of course, but you also blend them. For example, your digital poem, “Forever Trespass,” is constructed from reading a two-directional poem (one voice reading down the columns, another across the rows) and blending those sounds with animated photographs and digital art.
You’ve written about Dadaism and have said that “Dada poets opted for effect over articulation, for creating an experience over making sense.” Is this what you’re after, an “experience” that’s substantially different than a poem with, let’s say, added effects?
The ability of a digital poem to create a transformational experience, to take the viewer to that place where poetry comes from, a place of intense internal understanding, is greatly enhanced by appealing to the mind in multiple ways rather than with just text. The sound art behind the audio spoken word helps to disengage the logical side of the brain and allow the viewer's emotive mind to respond to the poetic experience in a different way. The first time I heard a recording of Gertrude Stein reading her own work, I found that her barrage of vocal repetition confounded my efforts to understand what she was saying in any sort of literal context. Although this frustrated me at first, I soon surrendered to the rainfall of her words and found their tickling pin prick exhilarating. That is what I am after with much of what I create. I often want to create sensations that the logical use of words are inadequate to describe. I have recently discovered that there is a very significant synergistic effect when I can blend all of my creative pursuits into a single work toward the purpose of drawing the reader/viewer/listener into feeling the feelings I am trying to express. I want to recreate certain feelings I am feeling inside in someone else, to awaken their subconscious to the images we all dream together. I am trying to communicate as directly as I would be if I were there physically touching them.

2) Side-not maybe: Regarding Dada—I got the impression in my youth that the Dadaists wanted to ‘end’ art by taking things to extremes. Is this the wrong impression?
Dada was anti art establishment and anti art hierarchy. They were against the forces they saw destroying the world. I believe they saw themselves as true artists, free to express themselves without the societal constraints of commercially produced art.

3) Regarding your piece The Word,” you’ve described its origin this way: “The images along with artwork and photos flooded my mind while I was in the shower. I went downstairs and started free-styling the audio. The sounds then shaped the animation. Suddenly I arrived somewhere I had never been—somewhere in the middle of groans, flashing color & splintered text.” Most of us writers have experienced the flash of an idea in words, and I can imagine a visual artist getting such a sudden inspiration, but it sounds like you got it almost all at once. Is this unusual for you or do you often start with one specific thing (a word or image or photography or sound) and then layer other media with it?
This was indeed an unusual experience for me. It happened to me previously with my text based poetry only a couple of times, only after a long dry spell, like a thunder shower after a drought. In the case I was referring to, it was with the first digital poem I had ever tried to create, although the idea of doing something in an electronic medium combining my poetry, art, photography, animation and sound art had been nagging at me for several years.

4) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the digital genre? What can you do in a visual mode than you can’t do with print? Could such combinations be distracting to the ‘reader’ or does it enhance the poem?
I think I have already spoken about many of the artistic advantages of this new genre. Another advantage is that it appeals strongly to many people who might not be interested in printed poetry. It seems to engaging especially to the highly stimulated younger generation. Also it is positioned to make excellent use of the rapidly growing market of digitally distributed media for hand held video devices like I-Phones. It's most important weakness for me is that I have yet to figure out how to perform the work live. Another problem is the amount of time it takes to produce a 2 minute piece.

5) To take just one example from your work, and that of several others, a word or phrase is often repeated in a piece. This could be bothersome (or some other negative adjective) in print but it doesn’t seem to be in an aural mode. Can one work with language in a recognizable way (i. e. syntactically) and still develop an enhanced effect?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes Yes. Yes Yes. Yes Yes. Yes Yes Yes Yes. Yes Yes. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. Yes. I have seen poetry videos (that look like old MTV style music videos) do that well. I also find that song writers often get away with poetry that would not stand well alone on the printed page because they over rely on the power of the music to enhance their words. Personally, I find if what I want to communicate I am able to describe or argue well with syntactic language, then the simple written word is a most effective means.

6) How can/do you “publish” or perform visual poetry? Again, how is this different from traditional ‘written-only’ poetry?
Since my digital poetry is delivered in a video format, I can publish it on DVD or as a downloadable video file. I am actually using the same "print on demand" service to do this that I have already used to published a couple of my print manuscripts (www.lulu.com). Although my digital poetry could be projected on a big screen with surround sound at your local movie theatre, I have no idea how to perform it live. Wouldn't it be cool if digital poetry took over the role cartoons used to play at movie theatres!

7) What’s next? What are the trends in the new genre? Is there any direction in the experimentation?
When I find the time to make another digital poem, I want to play some more with the "voicing" of the lines. By this, I mean I want experiment to with ways that create the effect of the reader/viewer/listener hearing some of the words in their head as if they were spoken in their own voice.

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