Thursday, April 29, 2010

One day they woke up and realized they were not taking pills for anxiety and depression but for anger. They were all furious. They stopped taking their pills. Their anger was huge and would not dissipate. They started screaming and screaming. Eventually, with all the screaming, the anger did dissipate. They felt better. They did not feel anxious anymore. Who could feel anxious after all that? They did not feel particularly depressed either, though about a third of them still wished they were getting more sex.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Picture of sunny morning posted on rainy morning.

A mouse awakened me at five am. Was she playing dice? Sounded like a mouse playing dice. Got up and looked behind where it sounded like it was coming from. Yes, mouse evidence. No mouse, no dice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Pantoum!

This is a freakishly long post for me, but i think you might find it amusing. I find it amusing. I am going to read it again right now.


Dude, I'm supposed to be writing this book that I'm writing and I'm just done with the hour of looking around the internest that starts my day and I find, instead of turning to Stay (my book in the writing), I'm turning to you to talk about pantoums. Why? Because you are handsome and cool.

You might guess pantoum was a minor cousin of the sonnet, all Elizabethan or whathaveyou, but, my freuds, it is not.

The pantun is a Malay poetic form.

Malay is a family of languages that goes back to the 7th century BC, in and around Indoanesia.

The pantun began as a tuneless love song, a completely oral art form. People started writing them down in the 15th century.

The pantoum is derived from a particular type of pantun, the pantun berkait, a series of interwoven four-line stanzas.

This pantun has four-line stanzas with an abab rhyme. It is recited according to a fixed rhythm that works in Malay so long as they keep the syllables of each line between eight and twelve.

Here’s Katharine Sim* on the form. Read this despite the resistance it excites: “The pantun is a four-lined verse consisting of alternating, roughly rhyming lines. The first and second lines sometimes appear completely disconnected in meaning from the third and fourth, but there is almost invariably a link of some sort. Whether it be a mere association of ideas, or of feeling, expressed through assonance or through the faintest nuance of a thought, it is nearly always traceable.”

* How much do I love the title of her book? It’s like jeeze we just learned the pantum, give us a break! No but seriously: Katharine Sim, More than a Pantun: Understanding Malay Verse (Times International: Singapore, 1987).

The pantun is highly allusive, dependent on shared knowledge of a symbolic code.

Here’s one, translation by Sim:

Tanam selasih di tengah padang,

Sudah bertangkai diurung semut,

Kita kasih orang tak sayang,

Halai-balai tempurung hanyut.

I planted sweet-basil in mid-field

Grown, it swarmed with ants,

I loved but am not loved,

I am all confused and helpless.


Isn't that great?

Sim tells us "Selasih" (meaning sweet basil) means "lover" -- because it rhymes with kekasih (the word for lover); and the last line, "halai-balai tempurung hanyut" literally means "a floating coconut shell at sixes and sevens."

Other frequently recurring symbols are:

flower and the bee = the girl and her lover

the squirrel (tupai) = a seducer

water hyacinth (bunga kiambang) = love that will not take root.

[I’ve never actually looked into this Sim book, I’m “translating” all this from the English yet nearly-impenetrable wikipedia entry on the Pantun.][I bet I end up buying the Sim book.]

Anywhy, how did the pantun get to be a big form in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries?

Well, a linguist called William Marsden, published a pantun in his Dictionary and Grammar of the Malayan Language in 1812. It was delightfully sexy and when minor poet Ernest Fouinet read it he was inspired to write his own, unrhymed French version of the poem, which came out so good that Victor Hugo published it in the notes to his book Les Orientales (1829) and after that tons of French poets wrote what was now called “pantoums.” This went on for a hundred and fifty years. Want to see the poems that got all this started? You have to click on this link! A Famous Pantun.

Oh Their God wasn't that delish?! Many youths have I admired,/ but none to compare with my present choice. It's hawt.

Okay so fast forward to like, fifty years ago.

You know the way the villanelle, today, is still primarily connected with “Do not go gently into that good night”? Fifty years ago, the pantoum was Baudelaire’s “Harmonie du soir,” though it is a particularly irregular version (the stanzas rhyme abba instead of abab, and the last line, which should be the same as the first, is original). If you go look here, fluersdumal and read the English translations you’ll go WTF? Why would that be so beloved?

Click here to see a google search page that will tell you all you need to know, don't bother clicking any of the links: Look. See?

"Un ostensoir est un objet liturgique de la religion catholique, également appelée monstrance."

An "ostensoir" is a liturgical object in the Catholic religion, also called "monstrance." Ha! Now do you see why the poem was so much fun?

Harmonie du soir

Voici venir les temps où vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s'évapore ainsi qu'un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!

Chaque fleur s'évapore ainsi qu'un encensoir;
Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu'on afflige;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.

Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu'on afflige,
Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir;
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige.

Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
Du passé lumineux recueille tout vestige!
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige...
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!

— Charles Baudelaire

Harmonie du soir

l'air du soir;
Valse (waltz) mélancolique et langoureux vertige (vertigo, pronounced verteej)!

Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir (altar).

Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir! (a tender heart who hates the vast black nothingness!)
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir; (the sky is sad and beautiful like a giant alter)
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige. (feej!) (the sun is drowning in its blood which is congealing)!

Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
vestige (vesteej)
Le soleil s'est noyé dans son sang qui se fige

And then this freaky last line which is what the whole poem was for, all for the word: Ostensoir!

Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!

The memory of you is brilliant inside me, like one of those huge gold starburst things that are part of the ritual at the altar of a Catholic church. This is particularly wonderful because the word for the huge gold starburst things is Ostensoir! which rhymes with night and darkness (soir et noir) and has the synonym of Monstrance, which sounds like monster. Ostensoir which must mean eastern night. It is an "ornamental in which the consecrated host is placed for veneration."

Do you see how much fun all this is, in the French? It is bloody and gross and sexy and sounds fantastic.

And what else was fun? Well what else was fun was what the pantun started out as, which is visible hilariously through this hilarious text over at the Classic Encyclopedia.

It's from the Encyclopedia Britanica 1911 and it is sooooo great. I have to quote it in full here. I really want you to actually read this whole thing. It is funny. All I have done is put in some paragraph breaks to encourage you to keep reading:

PANTUN (PANTOUM), a form of verse of Malay origin. An imitation of the form has been adopted in French and also in English verse, where it is known as "pantoum." The Malay pantunis a quatrain, the first and third and the second and fourth lines of which rhyme.

The peculiarity of the verse-form resides in the fact that the first two lines have as a rule no actual connexion, in so far as meaning is concerned, with the two last, or with one another, and have for their raison d'être a means of supplying rhymes for the concluding lines.

For instance:

Senudoh kayu di-rimba Benang karap ber-simpul puleh: Sunggoh dudok ber-tindek riba, Jangan di-harap kata-kan buleh.

The rhododendron is a wood of the jungle, The strings within the frame-work of the loom are in a tangled knot.

It is true that I sit on thy lap, But do not therefore cherish the hope that thou canst take any other liberty.

Here, it will be seen, the first two lines have no meaning, though according to the Malayan mind, on occasion, these "rhyme-making" lines are held to contain some obscure, symbolicaj reference to those which follow them. The Malay is not exacting with regard to the correctness of his rhymes, and to his ear rimba and riba rhyme as exactly as puleh and bulek. It should also be noted that in the above example, as is not infrequently the case with the Malay pantun, there is a similar attempt at rhyme between the initial words of the lines as well as between the word with which they conclude, senudoh and sunggoh, benang and , jeingan, and kdrap and karap all rhyming to the Malayan ear.

There are large numbers of well-known pantun with which practically all Malays are acquainted, much as the commoner proverbs are familiar to us all, and it is not an infrequent practice in conversation for the first line of a pantun- viz.: one of the two lines to which no real meaning attaches - to be quoted alone, the audience being supposed to possess the necessary knowledge to fit on the remaining lines for himself and thus to discover the significance of the allusion.

Among cultured Malays, more especially those living in the neighbourhood of the raja's court, new pantun are constantly being composed, many of them being of a highly topical character, and these improvisations are quoted from man to man until they become current like the old, well-known verses, though within a far more restricted area. Often too, the pantun is used in love-making, but they are then usually composed for the exclusive use of the author and for the delectation of his lady-loves, and do not find their way into the public stock of verses.

"Capping" pantun is also a not uncommon pastime, and many Malays will continue such contests for hours without once repeating the same verse, and often improvising quatrains when their stock threatens to become exhausted. When this game is played by skilled versifiers, the pantun last quoted, and very frequently the second line thereof, is used as the tag on to which to hang the succeeding verse.

The "pantoum" as a form of verse was introduced into French by Victor Hugo in Les Orientales (1829).


Isn't it amazing how condescending and yet admiring and knowledgeable the entry author is?

And then, as if that were not enough, in the 20th century, Americans get their hands on the pantoum and OTG, they run it into the ground!

There's no limit on its length and Americans just intuited that we could hammer in a hell of a relentless (thanks Amy Holman for the insight and word, yes, relentless!) work song, blues song, sorrow chanty.

Look at a few of these Donald Justice Pantoum. Carolyn Kizer Pantoum. Oy.

And of course, back to song. I am going to like it here.

Want to hear it? Go to 1:23 Here for the song.

I am going to like it here

Like a port in a storm it is

All the people are so sincere

There's especially one I like

I am going to like it here

And that, freuds, is the pantoum. Next up...the larch. The Larch.



Monday, April 19, 2010


Hi Fonz,

Are you in the mood to talk about form? I just finished reading The Anthologist, having had it recommended to me by the flawless Amy Lawless, and it has moodened me to offer my own toot oriel, in verse, by example.

Let us begin just left of the beginning, with the Pantoum. What the? Did she say Pantoum? My frikken spellchecker never heard of it! It's underlining it in red as if to say, Give us a sonnet! Give us a villanelle! [Go look at the Pantoum on wikipedia. No Don't! Unless you want to kind of laugh. Read the first paragraph it is all hinky.]

I'll just explain the Pantoum:

Four-line stanzas with abab rhyme.

Every line in the poem is said twice.

Last line of the poem is the same as the first.

Sounds nice right? The pattern is wacky, though, it’s this:

After the first stanza, the first line of each stanza repeats the second line of the preceding stanza. And the third line of the stanza repeats the fourth line of the preceding stanza. Also, in the last stanza, the second line repeats the heretofore unrepeated third line in the first stanza, and its last line repeats the first line of the first stanza.

Fonz, the truth is, the spellchecker is right, it's not the greatest form. Some forms have their device just right, and the Pantoum, like the sestina in my green-house opinion on the subject, is a B class form. But that's what makes it such a challenge, especially here in the twilight of our ridiculous youth and the bright dawn of something grayer. I meant to say, especially here in the sticky-wicket of a new century. Can we pretend sticky wicket means dense Dantesque forest, out of which one wonders, am I ever to be delivered?

Here's what it is. Here's one from me to you. Where did you come from Fonz? It must be hard. So much pressure, so many expectations. Living with someone else's family. Banging on things to make them work. Urinals in your office. (Thanks for that insight Joelle.)

Right, well, back to the poem. It was first published in McSweeney's 31. Actually, I change my mind. I love the Pantoum. It floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.


My people were existential thugs.

At circus, monkeys in derbies rode us.

Muttering, Life, in a full-bodied shrug,

at circus we swept up the sawdust.

At circus, monkeys in derbies rode us,

while the great rode feathered horses.

At circus we swept up the sawdust,

the dove’s debris and patrons’ losses.

While the great rode feathered horses,

humming to Pegasus, Oh Peggy Sue,

we’d unglove, debrief, and pocket losses.

Tanneries are what my people knew.

Brushing Pegasus to strains of Peggy Sue,

catching acrobats. Shadow of a big top,

tailor’s tales of what the ball-gown knew.

Sequins and confetti on a rag mop.

Catch an acrobat’s shadow on the big top

muttering, Life, with a bruise. Shrugged

sequins; drooped confetti like a rag mop.

My people were existential thugs.


Next up... the Larch. The Larch.



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Further adventures of "Forget about gym guilt, says poet"

Dear Fonzie,

The cherry tree is bloomin' blooming.

Here in this just up BAP post below I talk about our culture's weird relationship to physical exercise. In my book the Happiness Myth (which I mention two times below, no wonder when i took Amy Lawless's animal personality quiz I turned out to be a hawk), I also talk about our culture's weird relationship to sex, and you, Fonzie, figure prominently in the discussion. Maybe I'll write about that here sometime.

Anywhich, read this, tell me what you think. Stay cool.


A Short, Packed, Serious Argument Against Gym Guilt [by Jennifer Michael Hecht]


Darlink Bleaders,

Today I'd like to be less fanciful than I usually am here and deliver what I hope you will agree is a short, packed, serious argument against gym guilt. I've touched on this issue here before, largely as a way to train our minds to see our own culture with some historical perspective. But it is a very important subject in its own right, and I'd like to take a moment to give it a decent hearing. I've spelled out some of this before in my book The Happiness Myth, but I like how things turn out when I write them up just for you, dearest Bleaders, so here goes. Please respond with any thoughts, questions, or comments, either here, on facebook, or by email. k thnx.

Against Gym Guilt

Through studying history, I came to believe that gyms are occupying precisely the role they did in Ancient Sparta and in Fascist Germany. Being obsessed with bodies is actually a pretty rare thing in human history and we’re in lousy company.

Let me show you what I mean.

Why do we go to the gym, according to us? We want to look good. We want to feel good. We want to live longer.

Wanting to look good is pretty universal, but meaning “gym buff” when you say “good looking” is a very historically specific choice, almost as weird as the bustle or hoop skirt, and requiring a lot more effort.

Wanting to feel good is universal too, but note that if many sane people don’t want to go to the gym and indeed, do not go to the gym, than any definition of feeling good has to be looked at very closely. Yes there are ways to enhance mental and physical health by going to the gym, but there are other ways in which the gym can stress our mental and physical health (consider guilt about going enough and pulled muscles). If it feels good to lay on the couch and read a book or listen to music, it is hard to argue that the choice of going to the gym is definitely the one that most promotes mental and physical health. Sure, you should take lots of walks, go for a swim or a bike ride, or, say, clean your own house and sweep your own leaves, but no, you don’t have to go to the gym to feel good.

Wanting to live longer is the weirdest of the bunch. Many cultures focus on birth or death and some work themselves up into quite a froth about one or the other. It’s penises, penises, penises, over here, and over here it is giant chambers fitted out for the afterlife. The idea of focusing a huge amount of attention on keeping individuals alive for as long as possible is very weird. Most people in most of history have lived in cultures that enmeshed the individual in a lively web of meaning so that each person’s own lifespan was just not imagined to be all that important.

As I have said before, it doesn’t really matter how long you live. This isn’t theater, there is no way to miss the end. All bits of it are about as good as all the others and it is fabulous that we all got in and that we are here together. There is an eternity on either side of our little lives. Billions of years. It just doesn’t matter how long we are here. Pay attention to now.

But I can prove the silliness of this “gym for longevity” idea from another direction (before I go on to discuss what gyms are really for). The gym for longevity idea gets awfully weak if you consider, for a moment, what really kills us. Americans die in car accidents. Car crashes are among the top three causes of death for Americans forty and younger, and they remain in the top ten across our whole lives. Yet how often do we nag each other to stay out of cars? We try to hedge our bets with safer cars and laws about speeding, phone chatting, and drinking. But the culture does not lay in a monumental guilt campaign about staying out of cars (there is one for drunk driving, but that’s all). Why? Well, no one is interested in it. People have figured out ways to make money from gym guilt, so there is a vested interest. Also there gym guilt is about something else, something hidden that is none the less very real to us.

So what is the real story with gyms and gym bodies? What does the cult of exercise really mean?

Whenever it pops up in history it means the same thing. It always means: We are strong even though the peons do all the real work for us. We have special arenas marked as leisure where we get muscled at play.

Friends, we take the escalator to the Stairmaster. Why? What could a culture be doing when it pours its resources into making two such extraordinary machines?

If you are an average middle-class person in our culture, you leave the house for work in clean dry clothes and come home at night with clean dry clothes. This marks us as well off. We have an underclass (in our case immigrants, teenagers, and machines) to do our grunt work for us. While the underclass shows the neighbors that I can pay someone to rake my lawn, I grab a special bag of sweat clothes, clearly marked for leisure, and I take the escalator to the Stairmaster.

Friends, we are in the middle of an epic energy crisis. Yet we frantically encourage every able bodied man and woman to drive cars to a gym in the center of town where they are to hop on a machine whose name is the very image of effort going nowhere, the treadmill, and work hard for an hour. Then we make the treadmill electric, so we are actually draining power to do this. (All while the gas we need for the car gets us in wars, pollutes, and costs money.)

When we see this behavior in Ancient Sparta (where the population of Helot slaves outnumbered the Spartans) and in Fascist Germany, and we see the art of those two cultures focusing on the beauty of the toned but clean and uncallused body, we know what we are looking at. It’s more than shallow, it is military, it is deluded, it is oppressive, and a bit grotesque.

So if you love going to the gym, go to the gym. If however it doesn’t feel like your kind of place, you don’t have to go there, and you certainly don’t have to feel bad about not going there.

If you’d like to know more about this, read some of the back posts on my blog here, Jennifer Michael Hecht’s The Lion and the Honeycomb, and check out my book The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn’t Working Today.

Well, give this some thought and maybe let me know what you think. Enjoy this glorious spring day. Good work staying alive since last week, let's keep it going.



ps took the above picture last night

pps Hi Chris Shea who I've never actually met! Lets face facts, I wrote this post because you picked up my "Forget about gym guilt, says poet" post for the Boston Globe online Ideas section, "Brainiac" and I wanted to tell you some more things about it. wink. if i may. (yes i edited these last lines here, yet left it as was on the bap blog, liking both versions.)

Happy Days.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Swiftly Happy!

Swiftly Happy! [BAP rogue post by Jennifer Michael Hecht]

Derlink Bleaders,

Spring has sprung! Not working for you? You a little ambivalent about pulling lilacs from the dead earth? Well this, as my five year old often announces, is your lucky day.

Just clink this lick, or click this link, and start from the bottom of the page, about one entry up, where he explains Face off Friday, where he asks people to send in righteous home versions of a chosen pop song. well, frankly, i don't know the rules, i was just one-horse golden sleighing around the internests when i found this among my many new and old friends' odd offerings. in this case David Rees. it is Awesome. it is the cure for what ails you. (if your not seeing this on april 2, 10, try this way in David Rees at

just give this the 15 minutes it'll take, at the outside, in bits or all at once, and tell me you don't feel fine. it's the project people, and the project, and Rees' prose that makes me run to show you. go have little fun. gather the family. i command thee.



Thursday, April 1, 2010

gotta do the thursday puzzle. however measured.

Dear Fonzie,

However Measured [by Jennifer Michael Hecht]

IMG_9928 Darlink Bleaders,

Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove.
 If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer, an ever-fixèd mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken.

Should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises?

Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come,
love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured and far away.

Let me not, to the marriage of true minds. Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises. Let me not admit impediments. Love is a product that follows from devotion. Love is not love -- you’ve got the wrong word there -- if what you call love alters when it alteration finds.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer, an ever-fixèd mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. By definition it is the outcome of devotion. That’s why it is an ever-fixed mark.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come;
love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises.

Bear it out even to the edge of doom. Let us step to the music which we hear, however measured and far away. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

But he did writ and so did I and they (bard and Walden's warden) did love and so do I.



ps more soon xoxjmh

and that's all she wrote. more classic sonata crash-ups by jmh jenny to come. watch this space.

pps excellent work staying alive since last post, most of you. stay. stay tuned.

hey. whoa. okay stop typing genifur time to get dressed for therapy. gotta ride to the uppa wesside. do the thursday puzzle.