Download PDF Turning the Dragon Beautiful a collection of poetry and thought

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Are dragons a kind of reptile? This shows how much I know. I opened the book, imagining that I was going to sit in my favorite chair and read it cover to cover. Reading implies that you, the person with pen in hand and eyes roving left to right across the page, are directing the enterprise.


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Dragon Logic is instead an immersion experience—a baptism by fire, if you will—and I found myself surrendering more than reading, allowing the poems to dazzle and dismay, to affect and provoke without attempting to contain them or reduce them to something less than their compound beauty. You might say, in more seductive speak, that I let these poems have their way with me.

Also In This Issue

Later, I returned to the book looking through the lens of poetry itself. I should call this the meta-lens. Not really. Not in the same way as accountants or dermatologists. How can you be a poet? What is the job description? What are the required credentials? There is a pervasive sense in the population at large that poets, like dragons, are mythical—or at the very least, medieval—something from another time. Is a dragon a kind of dinosaur? The first time through, permit certain passages to speak to you without attempting to translate or decode.

You might find yourself lingering over small phrases like tea leaves in the bottom of your cup. What, after all, is the business of the sky? Strickland surprises me in that all matter matters in her work. The image as poem rather than in poem. The familiar made strange again. On your second encounter with this book, refuse to boil ideas down to their thinnest broth, their simplest ingredient.

Instead, allow ideas to boil over. Allow for froth and bubble, toil and trouble. All are present here. For instance, what happens when I enter this book for it is a place as a poet? Redux: What happens when I enter the book for it is many places simultaneously as a queer person?

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We must not remain mythical, the Politics of Visibility suggests. A comment on assimilation, perhaps: are we our own worst enemy in this regard e. So much lip service is paid these days to queering texts and queering space. Is it fair to say these poems instantiate that queerness—constitute a queer text, comprise a queer space—regardless of the orientation of their author? No matter who you are, I can attest: you will find in this book what you need, if not necessarily what you thought you were looking for.

And not their kindling either, the sparks from which they spring: Eschatology, Teratology, et al. Simone Weil is the mentor of my adult life. Weil is a philosopher and a mystic, initiated in many forms of knowing and unknowing, interested in ethics, but interested most in a kind of spiritual knowing that is not possible in language alone. She was also awkward and difficult and exasperating and trying to do things in a world not at all ready to hear what, or how, she had to say. All of my books, after the first, have been affected by Weil and my relationship to her.

Stephanie Strickland easily ranks among the most forward-looking, rigorous, and evocative poets writing today, and How the Universe Is Made is a tour through the poetic universe she continues to bring into existence. From its soulful Big Bang, through perhaps the first serious poetry to explore the emerging implications of the digital age for poetics, to the inner body of her new work, her spare words evoke strong, Emily Dickinson—like responses while generating a contemporary synthesis of scientific, human, and poetic discourses.

The move in her digital work towards readerly intervention invites us to ask—what are the activities, if any, that we can positively and exclusively attribute to the writer or the reader? The notes she offers here on her digital work are excellent and extremely helpful. And how funny these poems can be, not only witty but actually funny! There is wholly a through line, Weil of course, but more, a working through of the feminine in ways bodily, mythically, cosmically, politically.

It is powerful and timely. Watching a mind work through formal innovations while maintaining core concerns, deepening thought instead of repeating it, instead of abandoning it—a grand lesson for us all.


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Unlike some of your other books, you have resisted providing online links to enhance this one. When I was 5 my grandmother gave my sister and me a poem book that contained the following verse by John Farrar:. The visual references escaped me, of course, but apparently the sound of this poem stuck in my mind forever. What is the serious omission? To not be able to find that dragon?

To fail to discriminate the hugely many implicate orders of life? I also wanted to work with print pages—where words persist as a score for the poem resonantly heard—because that mode itself is under attack and facing rebirth. Can you explain how all these dragons, both in the title and the titled sections as well as woven through the poems, bring the electronic world alive? Dragons are mythical and abstract—mythic embodiments of abstract power, from the snake in Eden, to devouring sea monsters, to the latest special FX apocalyptic creation from Hollywood.

The dragon hunt that matters for me is tracking the beast as it slips, dizzyingly, from real to configurational electronically generated space, always aware that where we live, in either case, is the belly of this beast. Does a math theorem inspire a poem or do you search for metaphorical connections in the subject matter?

Dragon Maps, the majorly math-y section, evokes abstractions that, hugely masked, control the electric and electronic world. Throughout the book, there is a constant refocusing—on conversions, transformations, and shifting registers. These, as well as recalibration and the use of a multidimensional language, act to turn math into metaphor and vice-versa. The book is a flow of active layering that hums along from one untitled poem to the next, interrupted by a few titled poems, raising their heads like islands, and by two poems that sink to the very bottom of the page, including the reverse invocation for erasure at the end.

The voice of these poems invites interpretation and challenge, reaching out in many modes to include the reader. Is there any specialized knowledge your ideal reader would possess? No, not really. Each reader brings individual riches. Even fewer understand their total reach.

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Poetry reveals the semantic tunneling between apparent contradictions. Or is it meant to complement and enrich the other poems after their reading? How are the ecological concerns married with the technological, especially later in the book when Pan arrives? The Critical Engineering Manifesto calls engineering, not art, the most transformative language of our time, shaping the way we move, communicate, trade, and think. Living without leaving digital traces is now impossible, a reality untrue for most of my own lifetime as well as all lifetimes on earth preceding mine.

The boundaries between digital and physical are porous, dissolved, and press toward becoming non-existent. A digital system must erase what is specific in order to generalize a mathematical pattern that functions as a reliable network. Do people become more silent and less specific as technology finds its own voice? My poems engage science, computation, and mathematics as human creations; mythic language and diagram are, in turn, used to elicit the bias of knowledge and to allude to a history of science that has excluded women, as well as many others, and thus skewed our present state of knowledge.

Today invisible abstractions threaten the material earth. When pagan gods like Pan were felt, seen, and known, this capability allowed us to identify with the great intuited unknown of the living and non-living world; Pan has long been felt to be gone and has not been replaced by any myth or argument or strategy that changes ravening behavior.

As Isabelle Stengers says, our abstractions are achievements with a price. Do you see readers linking the poems into a narrative or finding discrete connections that resonate? No narrative can compass the abstractions—they act in too many dimensions at once. The eye can be guided by fancy online interactive tools, applets, to see more than it can grasp on a page, but the ear is our most discriminating native resource.

Codex: Books and Songs

Finding resonant connections is possible, even as explanation-stories fail and fade. Sound is sense—semantic meaning is always also found, not only impossible to shut out but intended multiply along various channels. We are woven into the mesh, fabric, harpstrings of a world newly stretched between subatomics and cosmic reach, a new instantiation of the wind harp, the Aeolian harp, the Huracanic harp on which aliveness is woven. Unlike her other recent projects, which have included digital poems and other digital media tie-ins and accompaniments, this one remains within the confines of the page, actively calling attention to the specific properties and possibilities of the physical book.

Strickland utilizes techniques that draw attention to the printed page, as well as unusual typographical symbols and visual displays of unusual textual iteration. The book is deeply concerned with physicality, questioning what it means when the distinction between the material and the digital comes to be increasingly in flux.


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The sensorial human body is implicated through lush use of sound, yet distanced through attention to language as a formal system as much as a channel of expression. To corral the feeling, the glimpse, the proposition in perfect relation to the reader and the text. She's brilliant, slyly funny and profound. This is a great book. And not their kindling either, the sparks from which they spring: Eschatology, Teratology, et al.

There is no key she will not sing in and no song she cannot transpose. Ahsahta Press Catalogue Dragon Logic. Stephanie Strickland. This is a complicated heritage for a child who felt drawn to write.