Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Brief Guide to Romanticism

A Brief Guide to Romanticism

I have traveled very far to tell you this

I have walked to the center of the trees
sopping with the ambient voices of insects
and plants and stones

I have done what I have had to do to find you
and you need to know

that falling in love with a place will wound you

You can’t stay anywhere for very long

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Terrible Song

A Terrible Song

Your love is as hot as an oven
Oh how this lyric makes me wince
and from it we know that surely the singer
has never been in love And yet
while carting the recycling to the curb
I see the stars and think that this night
is like a planetarium The door opening
is like the air except when it is shut and
then it is like a wall of ice The heat is hot
like a hot thing and the oven is capable
of reinventing the protoplasmic goo
you feed to it Why isn’t his love as hot
as a microwave I want to tell the girl
who sings this song that sometimes
you’re the oven and others the pie
We are all just simple creatures who want
to look at what has no precedent and
feel at home

Friday, December 26, 2014

On Repair and Revision

For the past few years, I've been fortunate enough to teach writing at an art school. One particular joy (among many) is that my classes are comprised of artists and designers; I love to hear from both camps (which overlap, certainly). This past semester, we spoke quite a bit about "design thinking"--that mix of thinking creatively and critically.

We always discuss art and design manifestos, and I just came across "The Fixer's Manifesto" (offered by Sugru, a company which makes a "moudable glue"--very cool!). The manifesto applauds the ability to mend make an object last longer. I love the declaration that "A fixed thing is a beautiful thing."

Part of The Fixer's Manifesto (by Sugru)

I'm not at all handy. I find a way to destroy almost every box I open, and sequential assembly does not come naturally to me. When I was younger, I was notoriously awful at the "spatial relations" and "mechanical reasoning" sections of aptitude tests--my brain just isn't inclined to put stuff together.

However, I absolutely value good design and objects that are meaningful and long-lasting. And even the smallest of repairs or tweaks can change the way we interact with things--a sweater becomes the sweater with the buttons that you lovingly replaced; tarnish can be rubbed from silver.

Adapting this rule as an artist is slightly trickier. I don't think that every poem I draft deserves to be "fixed," although many require a new button or a little superglue. A poem is not a "product," exactly; it doesn't solve a specific problem or need. However, a poem is a thing--a thing that the maker or user (reader?) might not need or use in the same way over time.

Is obsolescence an issue when it comes to art? (There's an art gallery in L.A.that I love called Obsolete). I lean toward saying that it is...but I don't know that we're burdened with the same ethical concerns that designers are in this regard.

What do you think about all this, friends?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Material

The Material

Enjoyers of objects who have buried
your faces in shower curtains or coat sleeves
who have caressed skylines of bottles or
alphabet blocks or cold utensils

You need not repent

These things live mostly in the dreamworld
of disuse

Maybe they are slightly holy

Friday, December 19, 2014

Reading Recommendations?

I have learned to treasure book recommendations. Not just someone's mild tweet or positive rating--but when someone tells me, "You absolutely must read THIS."

Over the holidays, I love to catch up on my reading for pleasure (even typing this makes me feel rather giddy). So, lovely readers and friends...what have you read that you feel compelled to praise or share? Please and thanks.

A few of the books I read and LOVED LOVED LOVED this year: Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Good Squad; Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and Lesle Lewis's A Boot's a Boot.

Spotted in San Francisco, near City Lights Bookstore!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fellow Feeling

Fellow Feeling

Lit up pub in the dark big world
we are all we have left now
which is why I can feel my glass leaning
its wet shoulder into the shoulder
of your glass This is a place of pressing
up against one another Together let us
shred the labels from every bottle
Call it fellow feeling Call it taking turns
behind the bar The heel of my boot
is tingling so I take it into my hand
Everyone knows this song so come on
sing it This is the house of glowing
votives You cannot see the floor
because there is no floor For each
friend another bar stool orbiting
an arm’s length away Less even

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Whatever Hops Into Your Hand Will Hop Out

Whatever Hops Into Your Hand Will Hop Out

You can fancy yourself a friend to the animals
as I do and still trust me they will never
tell you in a human language what they have said
to one another

For this they are not stupid I am certain that we are

The superpower I long for is to sit with an animal
and ask her questions

and listen to the truest secrets of our world

Tuesday, December 16, 2014



To walk back toward winter
you will have to pass
the pink-veined magnolia petals

You will destroy the tulips and pansies
as you walk on them for there is nowhere
else to walk

The living branches will fall around you
You will take your axe to the sleigh bed
and the piano for firewood

You will gather in a box whatever you would save
from a fire
and it will still burn

You will walk into the cold
and when you find winter you will know it
by its light

Monday, December 15, 2014



The sky and the water are equal,
equal, this is what this bridge
insists. The ground is affixed to
what is beneath it, dreams of trees
and bones, deep mineral thoughts
seeping into a place. And all else
is pastry, split sidewalk, water.

Maybe I’ll come back to this one
square of grass, or maybe when
I come back it’s cement, or maybe
my body never trusts it again
or maybe it stops trusting itself
and turns sinkhole, brings
the street with it, calling out
fire in the hole, where is the fire
that can make the darkness bigger.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Changing Light

I found a poem along the railing of this pier in San Francisco! It's "The Changing Light," by Ferlinghetti.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2014



Honk if your hands have been here
on the railing where mine are now

I plant some thoughts on this pier
for some future person to discover

When I lived near the water
my words were of the water
slippery and in love with the less-tightly
composed land that it could carry away
in fingerfuls

I explain this to the water
The water nods and responds in fog

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Unremembered Times

The Unremembered Times

If a thing happens
and no record of it remains
in our inner hall of records

we should not say it has been forgotten

There will always be a giving back
of what has brought joy or softened joy
or dopey contentment
or pain
though the duller sensations will wriggle free first

The car-bound afternoon and park passed three thousand times
An unremarkable bagel
The darkened rooms where you left yourself in sleep

Yellow light in red-headed trees and a free hour
A bridge to show you a new corner of a place
that became beloved

This is not a sloughing off
What dissolves is gone
but only from visibility

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ben Grosser’s Computers Watching Movies

This week, I learned about Ben Grosser’s fascinating “Computers Watching Movies” project. Grosser has computers look at several movies, and has developed software that produces a sketch to approximate how the computer is seeing what it is seeing.

Here’s an excerpt from his statement about this project:

“Computers Watching Movies shows what a computational system sees when it watches the same films that we do. The work illustrates this vision as a series of temporal sketches, where the sketching process is presented in synchronized time with the audio from the original clip. Viewers are provoked to ask how computer vision differs from their own human vision, and what that difference reveals about our culturally-developed ways of looking.”
This idea of computer vision is very thought-provoking to me. When artificial intelligence considers art, what does it perceive?

Here’s a computer watching a scene from American Beauty. Watch the rest of the videos here.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hungry for Purposeful Quiet

Hungry for Purposeful Quiet

I stop to consider the empty spot
in my flowerbed where the tomato plant
had been

Growing there now is something invisible
pushing itself against the space
to be seen

Monday, December 1, 2014

This Is Not an Elegy

This Is Not an Elegy

To the darkness gathered across the lake
that comes for us so quickly
here is what we can say:


to the place where every birthday candle
and cake will become

chewed crumbs and light
that lives next as smoke

And the darkness will say back

We know all about the birthday cake
We know all about fire gone to sleep
Always we have been here where love
began and will return

The Storialist. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.