Saturday, March 31, 2018

Entropy and thermodynamics

Hello fellow amphibians, today it’s time for another Physics class to spin your creativity, and I thought I would talk about entropy and thermodynamics. I will not bother you with details:

Thermodynamics is a funny subject. The first time you go through it, you don't understand it at all. The second time you go through it, you think you understand it, except for one or two small points. The third time you go through it, you know you don't understand it, but by that time you are so used to it, it doesn't bother you anymore.”
 — Arnold Sommerfeld, when asked why he had never written a book on the subject (c.1950)

Thermodynamics is so one of the most misunderstood subjects I know of. and many many well educated do not even understand it’s basic. At the core is entropy.

Let’s look at a dictionary:

Entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.

Remember that when we talk about disorder it’s not always what you might think at first, if you want to be confused on a higher level watch the video

Entropy is a measure randomness, and the second law of Thermodynamics actually says that the amount of disorder can only increase for a system.

That sounds a lot like my desk… *smiles* .

Entropy is closely connected to temperature which is the average energy of the particles in the system. You probably remember something about temperature is all about the molecules moving faster. Actually when I started to read about thermodynamics I realized that temperature was a lot harder to understand than entropy.

It actually takes work to bring order to disorder (the same with my desk). That actually sounds very reasonable, and it has fundamental consequences.

Entropy is why cool objects warms up and warm objects get cooler, It makes a car engine run (it’s not magic, it’s thermodynamic) where the heat from burning gasoline is converted to mechanical energy but at the same time heats up the surrounding air.

That’s why using electricity made from coal to heat the house is stupid. There are fundamental conversions where energy is lost.

Today I would like you to write a poem on entropy and the energy it takes to bring order to thing, talk about the waste of creating entropy (indeed it has a lot to do with climate change too). Write about heat and how it changes. Get warmed up to the thoughts and remember,

Entropy will always increase.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fireblossom Friday : Poetic Imagery

Hello slippery pond folk. Fireblossom here, splashing around, trying to catch a few of you and plop you in my special Poetry Bucket. Today I'd like to talk about poetic imagery. 

There are a lot of things that go into the construction of a good poem. The sheer beauty of the words and the way the sound when written skillfully, the energy behind those words, the message they carry, and the form of the poem--all these are important. But my text today, my dear amphibious flock, is poetic imagery.

I see a lot of "poems" that aren't really poems. What follows is the sort of non-poem I am talking about:

I wanted to sleep five
more, so I hit the 
snooze button and rolled

Simply breaking an ordinary sentence up into little lines does not make it poetry. It just means your "enter" key has a nervous disorder.

You may give me the squinty eye and argue that you write free verse, or remind me that there is such a thing as prose poetry. (I know, I write it fairly often!) However, writing free verse without any poetic imagery is a little like entering the Texas Chili Cook-Off without bringing any spices. You could do it, and call it chili, but it wouldn't be. So, pardners, let's take a look at some poetic imagery in the hands of masters. 

The following is quoted from "Ballad Of The Black Sorrow" by Federico Garcia Lorca:

The pick-axes of roosters
dig, searching for dawn,
when down the dark hill
comes Soledad Montoya.
Yellow copper, her flesh
smells of horse and shade.
Smoked anvils, her breasts
moan round songs.

"The pick-axes of roosters dig, searching for dawn" beats the living snot out of "It was 5 a.m." don't you think? So, one thing about poetic imagery is its originality--the use of unexpected words and phrases to describe something. Another is Lorca's fantastic LSD trip out of the ordinary world. As the Acid Queen in "Tommy" advised, "Your mind must learn to roam." Don't write "she is voluptuous" when you could write "Smoked anvils, her breasts moan round songs." Don't be a squirrel when you can be a lion!

Let's look at another example. This one tones down the LSD trip while losing none of the poetic power:

The girl made of wood didn't come here on foot;
suddenly there she was on the beach, sitting on the cobbles,
her head covered with old sea flowers,
her expression the sadness of roots.

There she stayed, watching over our open lives,
the moving and being and going and coming, over the earth,
as the day faded its gradual petals. She watched
over us without seeing us, the girl made of wood:

crowned by ancient waves, she looked out
through her shipwrecked eyes.
She knew we live in a distant net

of time and water and waves and noise and rain,
without knowing if we exist, or if we are her dream.
This is the story of the girl made of wood.

This is Pablo Neruda's description of a ship's figurehead. Would it have worked as well had he said, "There was an old figurehead on the beach at sunset"? Don't use a tired expression like "fiery sunset" when you can say "the day faded its gradual petals." This will mean not being satisfied with your first draft. Go over your poem and ask yourself, "Could I say this word, this phrase, this stanza, better?" Ermagerd, better words!

Okay, you rascally reptiles. Blow me away with your poetic imagery! I normally stipulate a new poem, but for this prompt you may also rework an older poem in keeping with the idea of poetic imagery. Any style, length or subject, but no ordinary or tired language. Owsley optional. ;-)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Tuesday Platform

Welcome to the Tuesday Platform, your unprompted free-range day for sharing poems in the Imaginary Garden. Please look up from your smartphone and link up a poem. Then be sure to visit the offerings of our fellow writers.




Saturday, March 24, 2018

Weekend Mini Challenge: The Heroic Couplet

Welcome to the Weekend Mini Challenge with Kim from Writing in North Norfolk.

I have been reading A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland, entitled The Making of a Poem, which ‘looks squarely at some of the headaches and mysteries of poetic form’ and answers questions such as ’How does a sonnet work? What are the rules of a sestina, and who established them? What gets repeated in a villanelle? And where?’

Although I am familiar with most of the forms covered in this book, I’m learning a lot of new stuff. For example, I thought a heroic couplet was just a couplet, ‘an element of form rather than a form in itself’. According to this book, ‘the couplet evolved out of parts of a poem’ and by the eighteenth century ‘the heroic couplet reigned supreme’.

A heroic couplet is a rhyming pair of lines that can be built up with further couplets to create a poem of any number of lines about high subject matter. The meter is usually iambic pentameter (ten syllables with alternating stresses) but may also be tetrameter, and the rhyme scheme is aabbcc and so on. It generally has a strong pause or caesura in the middle of a line, usually after the fifth or sixth syllable.

The sharp rhymes and regular beat made it widely used from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century for epigrammatic and satirical poetry, and its ‘fashionable, tight enclosure of sense and sensibility became an emblem for the times’. Which is probably why I had trouble finding examples of modern heroic couplets, other than the two given in the book, 'Strange Meeting' by Wilfred Owen and ‘The J Car’ by Thom Gunn, which are both rather long examples for a mini challenge. 

According to Wikipedia, twentieth century authors have occasionally made use of the heroic couplet, often as an allusion to the works of poets of previous centuries. This weekend the challenge is to write a short-ish (no longer than 30 lines) modern poem in heroic couplets about a favourite poet or one of their works - it doesn’t have to be in iambic pentameter but I would like to see use of strong pauses/caesurae.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

You and Me

Hello, Toads! Marian here with your occasional music prompt. Get ready! 

Last week, I was truly lucky to be able to take my family to see Alice Cooper. I have to say, of course I’ve known Alice Cooper songs for my entire life but it never occurred to me that I would see him live. It just wasn’t on my radar screen at all until the past year or so, when my son Jack started to really get into him. When we learned he was coming to Boston, we scored tickets for the family that Jack received in his Christmas stocking. And I am so grateful!

This show was truly, absolutely amazing and completely inspiring. Alice Cooper is now 70 years old and I hope he keeps playing and performing until he’s 80. Or longer! He puts on such an incredible show, I mean wow, so much energy! And I am so happy to be a new fan of the younger woman guitarist who plays with him, Nita Strauss. I am overwhelmed by how awesome she is!

Here is a link to a video of the encore from the show we attended in case you are interested. I did not take this video, we were in the balcony, but it's great:
SCHOOL’S OUT at the Wang Theatre in Boston 3-6-18

Okay, enough already. Obviously I'm a fangirl and am incapable of focusing on any other artist right now, so let’s all listen to this great, beautiful, classic ballad and write poems about 

sharing a bed, some lovin’ and TV 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Tuesday Platform

Today is full of wonder (for moi). It’s World Storytelling Day, it’s the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere… And I don’t know about you, my dearest Toads, but the thought of oral storytelling and the kiss of the Vernal Equinox makes me all giddy and bloomy and annoyingly cheery inside. I don’t even care that according to the weather forecast, New York is supposed to get more of the frozen stuff that shall not be named. Spring finally came. So, sleep señor winter.

Let’s welcome the freshness of Spring (or the spiciness of Autumn, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere) with poetry. Share a new poem, an old poem, a short poem, any poem… then, delight in everybody else’s poetic yum. 

winter continues
chilling clouds and naked trees,
but New York feels spring

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Weekend Challenge: Blarney Me

As the story goes, St. Patrick banished snakes from Ireland and saved his adopted homeland (he was born in a Roman settlement in North Britain) from paganism. He also saved Eire from the Christian fangs of Pelagian heresy, which taught that original sin was fake news. (Pelagius, whose name is based on a Greek word meaning “of the sea,” was said to have been Scottish in origin.)

We know now that snakes hadn’t been in Ireland since the glacial period, and some of us suspect that following Pelagius would have resulted in something less, um, fraught than Irish Catholicism. (I like to think of my patron St. Oran as a wet Scot.)

March 17 is celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day and immigrants of every stripe are invited to suffer the pangs of Irish nostalgia, wear green and drink way too much whiskey and beer. (When I was younger and wetter, lifting steins at Harrigan’s Pub on St. Patrick’s was akin to tromboning the pantheon of Irish saints.)

Let’s pluck three leaves from the shamrock and see if there’s a magic fourth leaf, down and back the mystery of history. In Irish lore, a four-leafed clover was deemed lucky, a springer of Otherworld doors; what wonders have you to share? Charm us with a blarney poem!

Does St. Patrick lamp your way back into your official migrant history, or does Pelagius hold the more durable and apt sea-candle for burrowing down into the salt reaches of New Grange?

Or this: Beer tasting a little moldy? Do you find nostalgia somewhat pathological, a too-dewy-eyed embrace for golden times that never existed or are forever lost? How are Irish immigrant dreams fueled by the Great Famine different than the desperation of Honduran or Syrian refugees?

And what if those snakes had won the battle for the Irish heart? What then?

As the Irish say, "Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat"—or, "May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat." I look forward to whatever jumps out of this blarney hat!