poems you write underground

Sitting on the metro/subway/underground/T/whateveryoucallit is a mundane activity for most – a necessity for the commute or just an economical way to get from point A to B.  However, what if the metro became a studio for creativity?  That’s exactly what happens with metro poems.

The metro poem is an awesome writing challenge created by Jacques Jouet of the French Oulipo writing group.  Oulipo is a French acronym (?) for Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle – Workshop for Potential Literature.  If you haven’t heard about them, I’d recommend checking them out – they rock!

TL;DR – this is how it works:

Hop on the metro.  When the train starts moving, begin to compose one line of poetry in your head. Keep composing until the train stops.  While it is stopped, frantically write down the line you just composed, because when the train begins again you will begin composing line 2.  Continue until you reach your destination, where you hop off and pen the final line.

Easy, right?  Just remember: train moving = compose in your head.  Train stopped = write down line.  No cheating now! And also, no going back to correct your work.  This means don’t worry about perfection, just production.  This is similar to Casey Neistat’s rationale for daily vlogging – it provided him with constant motivation (deadlines) to produce content.

The added challenge of the metro poem is riding the entire metro system in one go.  That’s right, passing by every stop and writing one large poem.  It’s exhausting but a rewarding experience.  However, I often write metro poems whenever I ride the metro.  Without further ado, here are two poems I wrote last week while riding home from BWI – one silly, one serious.  Enjoy!

— — —

L’Enfant Plaza-East Falls Church 16.12.16

Shoelaces

spaghetti on your feet
sign your coming loose
tripline for your strut
hairdoo for your shoes

bane of toddler moms
mark of hipsters style
swap for teeny friends
support for many miles

but tying mine’s a pain
they’re longer than the Nile
and so I must confess
they’ve been knotted for a while!

— — —

Greenbelt-L’Enfant Plaza 16.12.16

He called on us not to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary tasks in an extraordinary way.
This kernel of wisdom, unshelled from the mind of a peanut farmer, is more crunchy than smooth, difficult to palate for those accustomed to the mundane.
What would it take to reimagine every micro-moment of the day as an attempt at greatness,
Herculean ideals our tongues no longer remember how to pronounce.
Honor, valor, perfection.  Faster, stronger, higher.
Every step firm, every gaze intentional, every word carefully chosen for refinement.
Imagine the texts you would send when literature and oratory were in mind.
Instead of jotting down a grocery list, you would pen a decisive plan of attack on the supermarket battlefield,
and when you pulled in the mall, you would park to impress.
The ordinary made extraordinary.
How will you carve your life?

— — —

So next time you find yourself stepping on the metro, don’t just be a commuter, become a poet!

 

 

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Duality

Day after day, I waver between these two extremes:

“Within the vast sea of humanity, I sit on this lonely island, petrified by my own inadequacies.” – anonymous

“No, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, feast on thee.” – Gerard M. Hopkins

No one will read this.  No one will care.

But at least, it is written.

Exit Poll for Girls Who Dump Me

When you fail a test, you can see what answers you got wrong.  When you lose a race, you know that you need to run faster next time.  However, when you get dumped, there’s often no telling what you did wrong.

Usually, all you will get is a “Sorry, this won’t work out.”  And if you press further, an “It’s not you, it’s me.”   How does this help?  It doesn’t, and you’ll probably make the same mistake the next time, and the next time, and ad inifinitum until you either get incredibly lucky or just give up.  So that’s why I devised a simple survey to help out guys like me who just don’t have a clue.

EXIT POLL FOR GIRLS WHO DUMP ME

(aka Confession of Insecurities)

I’m sorry to see you go!  Please take a moment to tell me why you’re leaving.

1. Why are you leaving?

A.  Boring/Lack of Personality.

B.  Egomaniac.

C. Too short.

D.  I would be settling too low.

E.  I’m not looking for a relationship now, you read the signs wrong.

F.  You were into me?  I never noticed.

Thanks for this helpful information!

 

*I’m sure all the romantics in the world will have beef with this.  It’s about compatibility, it takes time, bla bla bla.  Well, doctor, if that’s your only diagnosis, I’m looking for a second opinion.

 

¥ouTub€ Arti$t

When I first realized that I could monetize my YouTube channel, I was ecstatic. Here it was! The dream of every YouTuber – making money simply doing what we love most. However, that initial rush soon gave way to a feeling of dread. How would my audience react? Would I be seen as selling out, giving way to corporate interests over the comfort and trust of my faithful viewers?

monetize
After a moment of reflection, I arrived at the following rationale. First, YouTube has been around for a long time. It is true that there was once a time without those pesky advertisements, but that time is long gone. Anyone who watches internet videos today already understands that watching ads is simply a part of the process.

Second, monetizing can help motivate me to make more videos. The prospect of actually earning money from posting videos can provide motivation (albeit extrinsic) for uploading even more interesting content.

Finally, monetization is not a one-time, end-all-be-all decision. I can easily remove the ads from my videos if I change my mind and I can submit new videos without any ads whenever I choose. Monetization may seem like “selling out”, but the truth is that it is just another step in the evolution of this wonderful video sharing platform that we all love.

After mentioning this to some o my students, I was surprised (and delighted) to find that they supported different sides of the debate.    One student, sided with me and offered the idea of empathizing with the artist.  She said “So let`s not be nervous while waiting for the end of  advertising just imagine that you will make someone [the artist] a little happier.”

monetize-2

Another student, took the opposite position that monetization ruined the experience.  This student cited how famous YouTubers are also role models to children and that we turn to YouTube as a relaxing experience, not an innundation of advertising.  However, she struck at the heart of the matter when she explained that “Useful and entertaining content should be separated.”

This division between the commercial world and the artistic world is a powerful theme that has existed ever since the invention of commerce.   In Ancient Greece, this profane and sacred division manifested itself in the division between the agora (market) and the temple of cities.  Modern day parallels include the debate over the use of commercial products in schools and the debate in Italy over the mixture of advertising and historical sites.   And now, here we are in the 21st century with a single platform struggling to maintain both commercial advancement and the integrity of the artistic creator.    To further complicate matters, this year YouTube outraged many YouTubers by revealing that some videos was “non-monetizable” due to graphic content that advertisers did not approve of.  However, the increasing influence of advertisers on YouTube is just another part of this revolutionary platform’s evolution, and there’s no telling what YouTube will look like in five years.

For more on the art vs. $$$ debate, check out my next post (Coming soon!)