Jason Braun’s blog of making text, apps, music, and other things. | jason.lee.braun@gmail.com | 314-614-3717

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Check out Superman spoken words over saxophones in St. Louis this Sunday night at @FoamSTL

So this reading is going down Sunday night around 7:30 at Foam in St. Louis The show includes great poets and friends like Matthew Questionmark, Zaire Imani, and Seymour Justice. I’ll be saying some new poems (some these are about Superman and other comic books characters) with Adam Sirgany on saxophone, and Mic Boshans (aka The Proprietor) on percussion. This is because Sean Arnold made it happen.

Ah, Did He Just Say Diction?

In Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Workbook, she writes, “For a poet, and indeed for any writer, diction has several components–the sound of the word; the accuracy of the word; and its connotation–the atmosphere, let us say, that is created by word choice.” It is interesting that she doesn’t call out correctness, as in how grammatically correct the word is inside the line and sentence. But maybe that is hinted at in “accuracy.”
I’ve been working on a manuscript of poems about the Midwest, St. Louis, and Superman for a while now and last night my friend David Rawson gave me some notes. He puts out lots of chapbooks and so has a good eye for this kind of thing. We got into it a little about diction. Here’s a review of his book Fuckhead in The Economy.
I’m thankful that I’ve got good readers and good friends to help me with my projects. Most of the time when I get a clique or suggestion from someone I trust, it is about something that already bothered me. The suggested change is something I secretly thought I could get past a reader.
David was bothered by the use of the “sweat” in the line, “We smoked, kissed, and sweat/ through our clothes.” Though it seemed to me that it was the way people speak and also the right word for the poem. Oliver writes about this impulse of contemporary poetry to be “written in a diction that belies that it was formally composed.” Poetic diction and the people were with me, but the grammarians were not. That’s why I drew this triangle.
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David teaches public school now and an obsession with correct usage is one of the occupational hazards. But even when we were teaching at SIUE, that cat could diagram some sentences. He won his share of spelling bees as a kid, too. But I think I might have convinced him with “sweat.” Either way we had a pretty good discussion about diction, how people talk, and the ever shifting tides of Standard American English. Consider this, the scholars at Harvard say that many irregular verbs in English (and other languages) are dying.
You can use Google N-Grams to chart the usage of these verbs like so.
Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11.23.46 PM
This is not the first time I’ve had to stop and think about this kind of thing. In the poem “Let Me Give You a Tour of the Place” the published version says “swum,” and I can’t even remember if I originally wrote “swam, swum” or whatever. But I remember it was a big deal that took up a lot of time in the workshop. No matter if they are grammatically right or wrong, I want my poems to feel that, as Oliver suggests, “They are not unlike a letter you might have received from a good friend.
Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11.23.11 PM

Push Through the Paywalls

Sure, it is great to support old media. I buy subscriptions to actual printed things (Poetry, Wired, and others). But sometimes you might just need to get around a paywall. And don’t feel like logging into some university library database. Google Incognito will help you.

It’s better than the Groucho Marx nose glasses disguise. Here’s a link to a lifehacker post about using Google Incognito, but really it’s only a couple clicks away. If you’re already using Chrome, you don’t have to download anything.

Books Battle Netflix: Steal Like An Artist

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon is the kick in the pants you’ve been looking for.

Kleon has the medicine that many beginners and “blocked” experts need. Take what you like and transmute it. In contrast to the old advice to write what you know, Kleon throws out the challenge, “Write the book you want to read.”

This would be a better use time than watching On The Road and buying a boatload of new denim designed to look like old denim.

But if you’ve ordered Steal Like An Artist and you need something to hold you down until it arrives checkout Exit Through the Gift Shop. Or you could just check out Kleon’s Ted Talk right here.

Is marginalia a dirty word? Ever been caught doing it in a library?

Here’s a link to a new podcast Kevin Eagan and I have cooked up for you.

http://criticalmargins.com/2014/09/09/writing-margins-episode-20/

Fall Semester Beings in Macomb and in the Ether

The fall semester is happening here in Macomb, across the world, and in the ether. Kevin Eagan and I put together a podcast about the latter. Check it out if you’re interested in MOOCs or other possible fringes and futures of higher education. http://criticalmargins.com/2014/08/08/mooc-education-episode-18/

Kindle Unlimited and Amazon’s Master Plans

Kevin Eagan and I just posted a podcast on the Kindle Unlimited Program and Amazon’s Master Plans. It’s a damn fine show, if you’re into that sort of thing.
http://criticalmargins.com/2014/07/28/kindle-unlimited-episode-17/

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