Tag Archives: poetry

The Big Giveaway

During the months of May and June, during selected five-day periods, I will be giving away the Kindle versions (E-books) of all my books. I will share this with all my friends and followers, and everybody else who views my posts on the social networks to which I contribute. If you know someone else who might enjoy taking advantage of my generosity, please feel free to spread the joy to your friends. After June 10th I go back to being my usual miserly self.

Poetry:

Science Fiction:

Essays:

If you don’t have a Kindle to read the book you want to download, click on the “READ ON ANY DEVICE” button or the “Read with Our Free App” link on the book page to download the free Kindle software to your pc, Mac, tablet, or smartphone. Then click on the Buy now with 1-Click. You will see that the cost is $0.00. Make sure you download the book during the period next to the book you want to read.

Additional Offer!

The first six people to write a review (preferably glowing) about the book they read will receive a free hardcopy paperback version of one of my books from the list above.

So what are you waiting for?

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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Filed under & Philosophy, Dilemmas, Essays, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Journals, Poetry, Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels, Uncategorized

The Flying Poetry Creation Contraption

Most people are not very creative. They are very good at doing what they’re told but are often stuck in neutral when they have to figure out what to do by themselves. Even creative people have a difficult time being creative. Their creative ideas go only so far and then that well can dry up for an awfully long time. There’s a reason for that. Creativity requires a certain degree of randomness, unpredictability, or surprising yourself. It’s not something you can use logical deduction or induction to get to. It’s not linear. It’s a step function. You don’t have it, don’t have it, don’t have it, don’t have it, until Eureka! You have it. Where did it come from? Out of the clear blue sky.

Most humans are pretty good at deduction and induction, but we aren’t very good at randomness at all.

We tend to do the same things over and over, we tend to be predictable, and we don’t know how to surprise ourselves. Actually we are not as predictable as machines because of our all-too-human errors creeping into everything we do, but we don’t know how to harness those errors yet for creativity. My signature is slightly different every time I sign it. I suppose I could invent something that turned the differences in my signatures into random numbers but it’s much easier and cheaper to use a random number generator function in a MS Excel macro, which brings me to the rather strange title of this blog post: “The Flying Poetry Creation Contraption”.

I’ve programmed an Excel spreadsheet to help me freely associate my noumena (the objective world, the external world as it is) and phenomena (my subjective world, my internal representation of the world) to generate in a semi-automatic fashion ideas for poems. It’s semi-automatic because it can’t generate a finished poem, although it sometimes comes pretty close.

Here’s how it works:

  1. I created 10 categories or lists. My categories are People, Animals, Plants, Places, Time, Objects, Phenomena, Senses, Emotions, and Actions. These are the dimensions of my experience. You can make your own categories and lists.
  2. I populated each list with 31 different power words or names, different sets of words for each category. A power word is a word or name that elicits a powerful response in you when you contemplate it. Each of us has his or her own power words. I won’t share mine with you because they are internal, raw, deeply personal, and they wouldn’t have the same impact on you as they have on me. You can come up with your own power words for your own or my categories. Why 31? It’s just a number. I’ll probably increase it over time. You could start out with 6 or 12, or any other number. I’ll explain why 6 or 12 below.
  3. Then I created a function (randbetween) in Excel that generates a random integer between 1 and 31 and uses it as an index into each of the 10 lists to pull out the word at that offset. If you don’t have Excel or know how to write functions, you can use a single die or a pair of dice to generate a random number as an index into your lists. Just roll the die or dice for each list (not one time for all the lists, but once for each list).
  4. This is one of the lines I randomly generated:
People Animals Plants Places Time Objects Phenomena Senses Emotions Actions
Dad frogs orange tree woods eternity stars stories unseeing adventurous limp

Randomness is the basis for an algorithm of creativity. This is how creativity will be programmed into robots and artificial intelligence.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under about writing, Essays, Poetry

100,000 Poets for Change

I have been invited to read some of my poems at an event associated with the Israeli chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change to be held in Jerusalem on November 6th at 8:30 p.m. Then I got to thinking about it.

First off, 100,000 seems like an awfully big number for poets even on a good day. I wish there were. Think of what the world could do with 100,000 Homers, Virgils, Shakespeares, Miltons, Whitmans, Eliots, Pounds, Bonnefoys, … You get the idea. Still, if I could wish for 100,000, I could wish for a million or a billion. What if everyone were a poet?

Secondly, “Poets for Change” sounds like something with a political agenda. Poets and politics don’t really mix. I remember writing a poem in Israel during the summer of 1983:

Sitting at a bus stop
outside the village of the grandfather,
attending to the quiet flickflicking
of the sprinklers in the orange grove.
My eyes rest on the concrete water tower
squatting behind the distant eucalyptus.
It seems so out of place,
Like a politician at a poetry reading.

Thirdly, what kind of change are we talking about here? Changing from what to what? It’s a common enough cry over a megaphone in mass demonstrations: the people want change! Have you ever tried to make your way through the crowd to the guy with the megaphone and ask him what kind of change does he mean exactly? The people want change! What do the people want? Change!

But seriously, what the organizers of 100,000 Poets for Change around the world want, and have wanted since the group’s inception in 2011, is real, is simple, and is worth wanting; just two things: peace and sustainability.

Peace means live and let live. Let others live even if they think differently than you. Do no harm. Be at peace with others. Be at peace with yourself. Be at peace with your planet. That would be a change. That would be the biggest change in our history.

Sustainability is kind of like what I was talking about in my previous post, “Morality and Religion“. Sustainability is Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Sustainability means doing things that, if everyone did them, would not destroy our society or our world. Peace is sustainable, if you can achieve it. War is not. When asked what weapons would be used to fight WWIII, Albert Einstein was reputed to have answered, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” This would be an even bigger change than peace.

I believe that poets, artists, and musicians are better suited than most to carry the banner of change into our future. As I wrote in Morality and Religion, “Literature, poetry, music, and art train us to feel things we’ve never felt before, to sympathize, and to empathize with anyone and anything around us.” Sympathy and empathy are what we need for peace and sustainability.

See you all at the poetry reading.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under & Philosophy, about writing, Essays, Poetry

Morality and Religion

There is absolutely no correlation between morality and religion. Don’t misunderstand: there are probably many moral people who happen to be religious too, just as there are probably many moral people who are not religious. The opposites and contrapositives are also true: there are probably many religious people who happen to be moral too, just as there are probably many religious people who are not moral. All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be all that surprised when you encounter an atheist or agnostic who contributes money to worthy causes or hear about a minister caught with his hand in the till.

Morality is based on considerations of goodness. What is the greatest good? What is a lesser good? What is the greatest evil? What is a lesser evil? Religion is based on faith and obedience to the representatives or the tenants of that faith. There are subtle but important differences between the two.

Religion may have provided a kick-start for morality back in the old days. It probably went something like this:

“Thou shalt not kill!”

“Why should I listen to you?”

“Because I represent G-d Almighty and He’ll send you to Hell if you don’t do what He says!”

Then along came Immanuel Kant and wrote a philosophical treatise on Categorical Imperatives. Click http://aquileana.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/immanuel-kant-the-categorical-imperative/ for more information. Basically he said that the Ten Commandments, among others, make sense to abide by them, not because of the personal consequences of doing so, going to heaven or hell or getting some other reward or punishment, but because of the criterion of universality. The criterion may be applied to any action or inaction under consideration. Take an action A. Ask yourself hypothetically what would happen if everyone were to do A? Would world order thrive, at least survive, or would it break down? If world order would break down, then it’s not a good idea to do A. If world order would thrive, then A is a good action. If world order would continue to survive, then there’s no reason why you can’t do A. You may substitute “kill”, “lie”, or “commit adultery” for A and see what you get. Now let’s see what you get when you substitute “attack someone with the possibility of killing” or “defend yourself with the possibility of killing” for A. Yes, “attack” would lead to the break-down of world order, whereas “defend” would not.

Kant’s system of morality is not the only system that analyzes morality independently from religion. As a matter of fact Kant was preceded in this endeavor by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Thanks to Michael Dickel for pointing this out to me. Religion is counterproductive when it comes to analyzing moral dilemmas. Religions start out with a cosmology and a history to establish their credentials, power, and future. Morality is considered an attribute of their commandments but is not to be questioned. It is not for you to question the will of G-d. Who is man to understand His ways? G-d moves in mysterious ways. If you follow His commandments to the letter then you will be rewarded with life everlasting; if not, you’ll be condemned to burn forever in the fires of Hell along with the rest of the nonbelievers. The measure of a man’s faith is that he believes even if it is absurd to do so. To analyze why it makes sense for us as a group not to kill, not to tell lies, or not to commit adultery is not a legitimate activity within religion. Some religions, however, do encourage the analysis of modern actions or modalities in an attempt to correlate or trace them back to some original religious commandment.

So what are the sources of morality that do not necessarily originate from G-d or religion, sources that can teach us or at least stimulate us to learn what is right or wrong? The simple answer to that is everywhere and everything.

Philosophy trains us to analyze the logic and the consequences of our words and actions. Literature, poetry, music, and art train us to feel things we’ve never felt before, to sympathize, and to empathize with anyone and anything around us. That guy walking unsteadily towards your car window holding out a Styrofoam cup in one hand and a cigarette in another at his side who looks like he hasn’t eaten a decent meal in a month is a challenge and a test of our morality. So is that nice looking girl at the office. So is your dog who would give up his life for you in a heartbeat and doesn’t want you to go away. So are the cats who have no one to feed them and give them water. So are the animals we slaughter wholesale for our insatiable appetites, the trees we cut down, the plants we plow into extinction, the soil, the water, and the air we befoul.

Analysis leads to paralysis. Yes, we walk a tightrope between too little and too much. To mix another metaphor, awareness is the burden of our consciousness. Nobody else can hold that burden for us, not even if they say they can. If we analyze too little or too lightly we are at risk of doing or not doing something we’ll regret later. The consequences of our actions or words can never be retracted. Time’s arrow only flies forward. The consequences can only be buried under new consequences which hopefully might be less regrettable.

Religion says differently. It is predicated on the premise that regrettable consequences may be forgiven. I ask you this: what would happen if we substituted “forgiveness of our sins” for A?

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under & Philosophy, Dilemmas, Essays

Quantum Poetics

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers: “what do people want to know about?”, “what do people want to buy?”, “what attracts people to other people?”. Google and other search engine services make good money selling the answers to the question “what do people want to buy?” The answers to “what do people want to know about?” could help us to adapt our educational systems better to the current needs of their students and the potential employers of those students. The answers to “what attracts people to other people?” may help us find love or maybe not or may increase the overall feeling of loneliness and the incidence of suicide. But I digress.

For the past year and a half or so, my creative writing has been split between poetry and science fiction. My first and longest running affair has been with poetry but, since my father died, my head has filled with stories, stories of a scientific bent, stories that are so compelling to me in their urge to be born onto paper or into cyberspace that they hog both hemispheres of my frontal lobes to the exclusion of my first love, poetry.

Maybe the stories are a blessing. To tell the truth, I’ve only written one new poem since I’ve published my book of poetry, “The Uncollected Works of Mike Stone” half a year ago. Life has been pretty good to me recently. I have a wonderful loving wife, three sons loved and loving who make me very proud, three magical grandchildren, and a strong fiercely independent she-boxer named Daisy whom we love far more than we should, no muse or dark mistress backstage, no starvation, no disease, no clear and present threat of war, etc. All these blessings are curses where writing poetry is concerned, at least the kind of poetry which I like to read, the kind that evinces emotions from the reader (which will only happen if the writer invests true emotions in what he writes). No matter how polished the work is, how right the meter, the scansion, the rhyme, or any of the other mechanics and craftsmanship are, if the hand of the writer is not impaled on the receipt nail of the Pawnbroker while he is writing his poem, if the poet is not putting himself through the fish-hook as bait, if he is not performing open-heart surgery on himself, the reader will know, he won’t be fooled, and his empathy won’t be elicited.

“OK,” you say, “I’ve read some of your poems. There’s several about war and mistresses, one want ad for a muse (that I didn’t get), and one about suicide. Where are those coming from?”

Good question. I saw a bumper sticker or a tee-shirt once that said “One life; live it well”. Suppose one life is not enough for a poet to write about everything he has to write about. It’s all about the road not taken. You take one road. If you’re like me, you probably take the safe road whenever you can. Sometimes you can’t. What about the other road, the one you didn’t take? Yes, I’m referring to the poem by Robert Frost. When one life isn’t enough for a poet, he has to walk down the other road a ways just to see where it’s going. Some might call that the act of imagination or empathy or the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics or entertaining a thought. I don’t like describing it as “entertaining a thought” very much, because some of those thoughts are not very entertaining. Anyway it works like this: you decide to do something (or you decide not to do it) and then, instead of just going on to your next decision or being smug about it, you think about what it would be like to have done the opposite, to have taken the other road. Sounds simple, right? Simple it’s not. As a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible. The distance you can go down the road not taken is a measure of your credibility as a poet. But I digress.

The scope of poetry is as wide as humanity itself, even wider. It ranges from loud whooping fanfares of heroic epic poetry (macrocosm) all the way down to haiku (microcosm) so small and vulnerable that you must be perfectly silent in the center of your being in order to hear it, that if you look at it too harshly it will shatter. I’m talking about the latter end of the poetic spectrum, the ode to little things (yes, I wrote that one), the snow flake in a holocaust, the nuance, the gesture, the specific ambiguity, the things that are both true and not true.

I thought that there were some parallels between quantum physics and the poetry of the microcosm (many-worlds || the roads taken and not taken, quantum coherence/entanglement || specific ambiguities), so I keyed in “Quantum Poetics” in Google. I thought to myself that I’d probably get no hits. I once heard of a game computer geeks play, similar to “pitching pennies”, “pitch and toss”, “Liney”, or “Jingles”, whose object was to formulate a query in Google which would receive one and only one hit, not zero, and not a zillion. But I digress. I received about 25,400 hits within a quarter of a second. Apparently Patricia Monaghan introduced the term “quantum poetics” in her dissertation about the ways Wallace Stevens and other American writers incorporated ideas from modern physics into their poetry.

No, I have no intention of discussing that dissertation or any of the other 25,399 hits. Actually my post was all about the digressions.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under about writing, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Poetry, Prose