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March 16th, 2003

Voting on the Title of a Mail Poetry Call

Today I'd like to "kick off" the first step in designing my Mail Poetry call, but I need some help from my readers. What is "Mail Poetry", you ask? Stated simply, "Mail Poetry" is a form of mail art. Mail art is too big a concept for one little voice like me to set out the definitive definition. Stated too simply, it is art exchanged through the mail, either one to one or in response to "mail art calls". The concept goes much further than that. For most of us who do it, mail art is an effort to "go around" the traditional ways in which art and culture are shared in our society. Mail art is not about galleries, making money, or making judgments about others. For many of us, and especially for me, mail art is not about talent, but instead about the idea and the earnest effort. I believe that all personal expression in this mode seeks what I pretentiously capitalize and call "The Experience" or the Moment, that point of aesthetic departure from the land of mundane triumphs and despairs into the land of fascinating, and yet sometimes transforming or devastating, daydreams.

I have participated in a goodish number of mail art calls, but I have never run a mail art call. Meanwhile, my first choice for personal expression is usually poetry. Why poetry?, one might ask (particularly one who has read my poems). For me, poetry exemplifies so much of the opportunity to achieve interpersonal connection, without the baggage of a marketplace or a coherent aesthetic establishment against which to rebel. Poetry doesn't sell,and nobody agrees on what is truly good (though we sometimes agree on what is truly awful). Certainly, not all poetry is "created equally", but I've found that I've enjoyed most of all in a mail art vein those poetry exchanges I've done with others. I love the idea of putting one's heart into a poem without any thought of publication, money (which is good, because nobody makes any), academic approval or the other hallmarks of "art as commodity".

marstokyo suggested some time ago that I sponsor a Mail Poetry call. I thought this a fantastic idea. I am all about bad poetry, shared effusively, both as reader and as poet. In Mail Poetry, one solicits the individual contribution of the individual artist, in the form of a poem. No restrictions will be placed on the poem, other than on perhaps paper size. There will be no "judging", no prizes, no return of submissions, no recognition in any "big" way. In some way, I will get these poems "out", but how I do it will depend on the quantity of response. In every event, there will be some public "Moment", whether it is a public reading, a booklet, or some other mode, and in every event, each person will receive documentation of his or her contribution in the project.

Mail art calls usually have a "theme". Some recent ones I've seen use a single word or phrase, like "Fear", "Chess", "Invoking World Peace". These are probably the easiest, but I have in mind something slightly, but not materially, quirkier. The problem leading to this poll is that sometimes in life I have a flash of inspiration, as if God has defined the Way of the gurdonark. This time, though, I need to choose my Mail Poetry Call theme, and I have so many stray ribbons of ideas.

Hence, I call upon the wisest people I know to help me out.

Poll #113320 Please Help me Choose a Title for My Mail Poetry Call!

I've been brainstorming a number of different "themes" which will be the basis of my Mail Poetry Call. In the form of "call" I intend to do, each poet will be asked to send me a poem on this theme. I like the idea of a theme which is just quirky enough to encourage people to write something, without being too confining. I trust my LJ friends implicitly on matters of quirkiness. Which "theme" among the following should I choose?

Infinite Space, Tiny Apartment
7(25.0%)
A Child's Garden of Absurdity
5(17.9%)
The Thorn without, the Thorn within
2(7.1%)
The Weblog of my Inner Soul
1(3.6%)
My Personal Absurd Heaven
2(7.1%)
The Politics of the Personal
3(10.7%)
Compassion amid Disparity
0(0.0%)
Leafy Sea Dragons
4(14.3%)
Mind Throbbing Quest for Dignity
1(3.6%)
Loving the Enemy, Loving the Stranger
3(10.7%)


Thank you all for your help. I'll choose the "winner" based on this poll (whether the democratic result, or a quirky comment in favor of one or the other), and then begin promoting my call. Of course, I'll post the call here as well, as I'd love it if any of you wish to join in.
April 1. A time in which we all come clean, and replace the subtle fictions of our LiveJournals with broad, transparent fictions. It's a day of All Fools--the day on which we expose our inner inversions to the world. Yes, for those of us who choose to play, April 1 is Bizarro LiveJournal Day.

The Bizarro universe in the old Superman Comics was a dimension in which everything did everything backwards, or the opposite. The Bizarro Superman says "hello" instead of "goodbye". As so many of us do, the Bizarro Superman's "true identity" is much stonier looking than the userpics of the "real" Superman. Some of us, I fear, will prove in their Bizarro posts how genuinely Bizarro their regular journals are, but it doesn't matter. We are not out to learn anything or make a point; we are Bizarro.

The Bizarro concept has been utilized in so many ways. Not only did a memorable episode of Seinfeld feature the "Bizarro Jerry", but also Buffy the Vampire Slayer had an entire Bizarro alternative universe. Alternative bizarro comic strips, books, and notions abound.

But on April 1, those who choose to play will have the chance to construct their own Bizarro LiveJournal Post. What is "bizarro"? Well, it can be many things. But for most of us, it will have one of two meanings--either the LiveJournalist alters entirely all the facts of his/her life, to create a fictitious day by a polar opposite, or the LiveJournalist will take his/her own life, and change entirely every bit of mood and spin from his/her own journal, to "see" his or her world in entirely the opposite way of the way he or she sees it now. It's a writing exercise in silly, but meaningful, but meaningless, inversion.

We don't really need many rules. The rules are therefore simple: 1. post your Bizarro post on April 1; 2. make sure at the end of your post, you title it ("[Post title]--Bizarro Day Post"); and 3. If you wish, comment here so that folks know you're choosing to play, and watch for your post come 4/1.

I don't claim this is a new idea, as faux personae are as old as the internet, and as pervasive on LiveJournal as Bjork icons. But as marstokyo and I were discussing some weeks ago, it would be fun, and already a solid number of people have agreed to join in the fun.

So if you wish to play, feel free to comment in solidarity.
Publicize it as if it were a "meme" doomed to scorchfire all of LJ. Most of all, write your Bizarro post on April 1, for which you will receive no special prize, but perhaps some personal inspiration of what choices you have made, and what choices are still available to you. On second thought, just be Bizarro.

Because, after all, life is nothing, if not Bizarro.
"Christ, have mercy upon us.
Freud, have mercy upon us.
Life, have mercy upon us."
--Stephen Vincent Benet, from the poem "Minor Litany"

Tonight I went to our neighborhood Persian restaurant. The owner knows my wife and I as newly frequent customers, so he came over to speak to me. When he saw I had brought a science fiction book to dinner (my wife being out of town), we began discussing books. I knew he is trilingual, so I asked him which language he prefers to read in--French, English or Farsi. He told me that he found Farsi capable of expressing incredible poetry, but that he was more comfortable in French, which he spoke more fluently and found more evocative than English. We laughed about the inadequacy of subtitles. I told him the story of how I toured the Swiss parliament once. I speak schoolbook German. When we got to one chamber, the tour guide explained in German that we were in the Mendenhall, and gave a discourse about how each chair had a special meaning, depending on the canton of the delegate who sat in the chair. She asked me if I knew an English word for the concept of a "mendenhall". I shrugged; I wasn't sure. She finished the long German explanation. Then she turned to the Brits and Americans on the tour, and said, in English, "this is a lobby". We went to the next room.

Last night, I wrote my senators. Today, I feel that I am one of millions of voices not being heard.

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