Posts tagged ‘poetry’


The parts of that poem about the roads and the wood that I could remember

[I went for a meditation and walk in our rather large local park today, which was quite lovely. As I walked along that poem about the roads and the wood and diverging and sighing and stuff came to mind, and it was fun to see how much of it I could actually remember verbatim.

So here I am writing down the reconstruction, including these notes in the places where I couldn’t remember, mostly so I can be amused by reading this again some month or year (ages and ages hence, hee hee), but maybe some of you other intelligences would be similarly amused.]

[Poem title, probably involving Roads and maybe also Woods]

[by Robert Frost, unless I’m embarrassingly wrong]

One road in a wood. The wood is more brownish than yellow.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
[And knowing that?] I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood,
[Thinking about which way to go.]

[Eventually I decided to go the way that looked less worn,]
[Although in fact]
those passing there,
Had worn them really about the same.

[I left the other one] for another day,
[Although] knowing how way leads on to way,
[I’d probably never be back in the relevant sense,
Can’t go down to the same river twice, eh?]

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

[Which sounds very hipster at first reading, “oh, you wouldn’t know my road, it’s very less travailed by”, but then there’s the fact that he said that they were really about the same, so maybe “all the difference” really isn’t that much difference after all. Or maybe he’s sighing because, even in retrospect, you can’t tell whether some choice was the right one, because you don’t know what would have happened if you’d chosen differently. And even more, you can’t tell whether some choice you make right now is the right one, because you don’t know what’s down either road. And also that we sigh when we think about that, even though since it’s a fundamental property of our existence, you’d think we might be reconciled to it, or even happy about it. But we aren’t always, so we sigh.

And that’s why we have poetry!]


Twenty-seven five

So this NaNoWriMo stuff has continued to go absurdly well; I’ve now passed 27,500 (twenty-seven thousand, five hundred) words (see figure) in this year’s novel, which is ridiculous.

I used GPT-3, via the Shortly client, a bit more today than on previous days, for ideas and names and the contents of pieces of text that needed to be relatively random, and so on. I generally paste in the last few paragraphs or the current chapter-so-far or whatever, and then hit “Write for Me”, and then undo and re-do a few times before I get something that either gives me a good idea how to continue, or even that appeals to me enough to copy and paste into the novel and then edit to be right.

It doesn’t feel like cheating, but it does feel really interesting. It helps that the novel is very random and really open to anything whatever happening. I wonder how useful someone writing a more usual novel with fixed characters and a known plot and outline and stuff would find it.

I’m also continuing running around in AI Dungeon, which I’m convinced is keeping the old narrative voice and typing fingers oiled up. I’ve also brought in a few characters and incidents and references (but not directly any words except a few sentence fragments) from my AI Dungeon adventures, into the novel.

Since I’m too lazy right now to update the davidchess dot com nanowrimo landing page, and just in general, I will write down some words about the prior NaNoWriMo novels (and attempts), in order from the first time:

  • In 2001, before the current NaNoWriMo website records even began :), I wrote Straight On To The Exit, a relatively straightforward real-world story with (oh, I’d forgotten that!) a set of questions at the end of many of the chapters, and with a cute gimmick that let me basically write whatever words I wanted when I ran out of ideas.
  • In 2002, I wrote In Dark, a science fiction story set on and within the body of a giant comatose lizard floating in interstellar space. Perhaps my favorite setting so far. :)
  • In 2004 (don’t remember what happened in 2003, probably I was just sensible), I wrote Take Good Care Of Yourself And Others, a more (um) realistic near-future science fiction story basically about the world just before the Singularity, in which I used excerpts from actual spam that I received as decorators and wordcount.
  • In 2005 I wrote Diveritmenti, an epistolary novel with an unreliable narrator, which might be a vampire story or something.
  • In 2006 I think I was busy being clinically depressed and discovering Second Life (which helped a bit with the clinically depressed thing),
  • In 2007 I wrote Another Door, about a house that’s larger (well, much larger) on the inside than on the outside. This one had very little (that I can recall) in terms of gimmicks for wordcount, and an impressive ending; this is one of my favorites (well, they all are).
  • In 2008 I wrote Strangers (aka Shore Leave), another relatively straightforward contemporary science fiction story, about the impact on all concerned of the arrival of the first interstellar visitors to Earth, in the form of a crazy chaotic world-ship containing hundreds of different species (probably).
  • In 2009 I wrote “Silence. Silence. Silence. Silence.“, which is more of a long poem or chant or experimental song lyric or something, and might well be considered cheating given the amount of repetition in the text.
  • In 2010 there was just too much going on.
  • In 2011 I started but did not finish Murder in the Castle of Wizards. A little humbling failure is good, sob.
  • In 2012 there was like a big snowstorm and power failures and so on.
  • In 2013 I did NaPoWriMo instead, and wrote thirty poems in April; that was fun!.
  • In 2014 I did NaNoGenMo instead, and wrote a program that wrote “Gazanduwo U“. 50,000 words, none of them in any human language as far as I’m aware. (I did put this on the NaNoWriMo site; awfully close to cheating!)
  • In 2016 I wrote The Mercy of Fate, in which I explicitly rolled the dice to determine the direction of the story in various places; I will have to re-read this sometime to see how it worked out. I don’t remember having been very satisfied with it.
  • In 2019 I wrote Pillsbury Baccalaureate, basically science fiction, which starts when a person discovers he has memories that aren’t his, and leads into adventures with machines for exploring (something like) alternate universes.
  • And here we are in 2020, just over 27,500 words. :)

So in some sense this is my eleventh time doing NaNoWriMo (not counting the NaNoGenMo year), this will be my tenth NaNoWriMo novel when I finish it, and I’ve also done NaPoWriMo once and NaNoGenMo once. Not bad!



The snow falls undeterred
Onto freshly-shoveled ground
Ancient Snow with its newborn flakes
Covers everything.


Tags: ,

Where with white clouds for my pillow, I sleep

A long time ago, and I just remembered it recently for some reason, when I used the Opera browser for awhile, there was this lovely odd thing.

For some reason (and I’m sure that I did it somehow by accident, but I never did figure out how) whenever I had the focus on a text input box (or something like that), it would offer me a default value to fill in, and that default value was:

Where with white clouds for my pillow, I sleep.

And that made me smile every time I saw it.

I kept it as an enigma at the time, and never looked up the phrase, or the part of the Opera documentation that would have told me how it got there.

I still haven’t done the latter :) but it turns out that the phrase is from Cold Mountain. No, not the film, or even the novel; the poems of Han Shan.

I’ve been wanting to go to that Eastern cliff,
To the present–for innumerable years.

So yesterday I came and climbed up through the vines,
But halfway there, I was hampered by mist and wind.

The path was narrow–with my clothes it was hard to advance;
The moss was sticky–my shoes could not go on.

So I stay at the base of this red cinnamon tree,
Where with white clouds for my pillow, I sleep.

I will attempt to resist talking about what it might be “about”. :)

That particular text seems to be poem number 295, in a translation copyright 1990 by one Robert G. Henricks; I found it today on Google Books.

It looks like we know nothing of Han Shan besides what is in the poems; in fact “Han Shan” is likely not his name at all, apparently it is just the words “Cold Mountain”.

I love the thought of the unknown hermit-poet’s words coming down through the long years, and somehow ending up embedded in my Web browser.




The Enlightened One
Spills his oryoki bowl.
Rice everywhere.

As well as being of course all profound and stuff, this is a Celebratory Poem on my having signed up for the Basic Space Meditation Intensive up at Zen Mountain Monastery in September.

Just around my birthday; a present!

It is also a reference to the fact that oryoki seems to be the main thing I am worried (“worried”) about vis-à-vis said Intensive. Which is kind of funny, in some elusive sense, but it’s always good to know where the barriers are.

Or, well, to have a theory about it.

Because then you have the fun of discovering you were wrong. :)

And working on different surprise barriers instead.

Or as well.

So anyway I am extremely looking forward to it; devoted (really really devoted) readers will recall our previous weekend at Zen Mountain Monastery back in (omg haha) 2006 (a mere eight years ago), and how great that was.

Not that one part of the Pure Land is superior to any other or anything heretical like that! :) But still…

It will be tiring, bouncing up and down eagerly for like four months.


In turf amending his bright replies

They just keep coming!

Sat down not petrify recalling every pontiff he had said, and in turf amending his bright replies.

Openly scarcely, peremptorily, barely fondly unconcerned on paying my addresses to her, I conceiveed franc most improperly to let him, from vote to dugout, the sect of carpeting it, from an unwillingness to die into an landmark while my circumstances were so soon feed.

I will miss these when the next level of the arms race happens and they start to go to my Spam folder, which is so voluminous I hardly ever check it.

Tags: , ,

Masha, refreshing prodigy for three

A couple of very nice poems from spam recently. This:

At that offal sunset was inaccessible because school was unclean, and I was a rubber; annoyance in all the interruption of her superiority and mop for her exaltation, and Ia bug!

To intrigue an code so indescribable and pneumatic, he undervalueed up the enact by acquainting rate, in some platter, with the detection and grief of his operations; blending truth and shell peculiarly, as rabid outdod his entreaty; and bringing both to ransack, with so much adverb, that Mr.

and this, shorter:

Masha, refreshing prodigy for three. No, employ a purgatory.

Bachelor hotly as cupboard handed a coldness to the Frenchwoman.

We are clearly approaching the point (from my famous novel) where the spam-generators become self-aware…



Here is another new poem! Even though it is no longer NaPoWriMo!


Bright sunshine and cool air,
Full belly.
One misstep on the curb
And that punch in the face
From the grill of a parked car
Is a gentle reminder
Of perfection.

It wasn’t actually the grill, since these shiny modern cars don’t actually have grills, but it was that general area of the car.

A rare picture of me with (even rarer) bodily injuries! (I was going to post a thumbnail of it here, but owch.)

This was on the way home, where, just to add to the airline excitement, my original plane was canceled and replaced with another one at 6:05am the next day, so I got to spend an unexpected extra night in a (different) hotel, and had plenty of time on the way there to slip in a parking lot after a nice lunch and bash my face against things!

That flight was then, at like 11pm the night before when I was already asleep, rescheduled to 8:10am instead.

I fell asleep immediately upon getting home when I finally did. :)

Adventures everywhere!


NaPoWriMo 14


The High Gods dance on perfect crystal boats
To melodies ornate and songs sublime.
They drink the wine of bliss, and judge the world,
All drifting on the endless sea of time.

There are Gods of Night and Gods of Mirth and Hope,
Gods of Desire and War, of Wind and Stone,
But the scowling God that they call More-Than-This
Turns his boat away and sails alone.

Youths in their millions send up prayers to Love,
And marching armies sing their hymns to War,
The farmers pile the altars high with tribute,
The city’s throngs they kneel and adore.

But when you sit at evening discontented,
Surrounded by the empty things you’ve won,
And suddenly you’re filled with lonely longing,
It’s More-Than-This that hears your hungry groan.

There are Gods of Night and Gods of Mirth and Hope,
Gods of Desire and War, of Wind and Stone,
But the scowling God that they call More-Than-This
Turns his boat away and sails alone.

(Been reading ol’ Dunsany again.)


NaPoWriMo 12

Nothing said with words is true.
But they can point
beyond themselves.


NaPoWriMo 8


What would you do
if a little girl
in a gingham dress
came across a meadow
and handed you a flower?


NaPoWriMo 6


when she comes back to us
from the deep dark places
there are tears
on her cheeks


NaPoWriMo 5

A certain young lady from Tyne
Has a bosom exceedingly fine,
But her Mom is a lawyer,
We don’t want to annoy her,
And we aren’t going to print the last line.



NaPoWriMo 4

What it issynpase

Depression is not sadness
because it rained again
or your job sucks
or the bills are overdue.

Depression is not grief
over divorce
the death of a parent
or even a child.

Sadness, grief, can trigger it
can set it off
but it is not them.

Sadness goes when the sun comes out
the bills get paid
or you stop worrying about them.

Grief even goes, softens, with time
with wind
with new loves and new lives.


My depression
(and I say mine because it was mine,
is mine,
intimately and completely,
wrapped around me
suffusing me
being me)

My depression is from eagerness.
Overeagerness of some transport proteins,
in my brain.

They are nice little guys, normally,
the clean-up crew,
mopping up the neurotransmitters when a thought is done,
so my brain can rest up for the next thought,
so the little molecules can be recycled
and used again
(posters on the walls of my brain:
“Go Green! Practice reuptake!”).

But then,
for some reason,
they got carried away.

Started showing up for work early.

Mopping too fast and too hard.

Cleaning up before the job was done.

So if I thought,
“I should get out of bed”,
before I could move,
they were there mopping up,
taking away the serotonin,
the norepinephrine,
the foods of resolve.

And I was back in bed.

And if I thought,
“we should pay the bills”,
before I could move,

And I was back in bed.

With just enough chemicals to worry
and hurt.

None left
to do
anything else.

I like to think that the transport proteins are good-hearted,
Just trying extra-hard to make their quotas.
And no one told them there was a problem.

Maybe one of them found a new kind of mop.

“Hey guys, look at this!”

Whoosh whoosh whoosh.

Or there was a fad for early rising.

(More posters:
“Do not tarry, don’t be slow,
Clean that synapse, go, go, go!”)

And whoosh.

I was back in bed.

But now I am fine.
We have sent in the transport blockers
and they stand in the way
put out a foot and trip the moppers when they mop too fast
knock over a bucket
or sidle up next to one and whisper.

“Hey, bud,
word is you’ve been working real fast lately
real, real, fast
making the rest of us look bad
and that’s making some important people unhappy.
Know what I mean?”

So now they work again at a measured pace,
and thoughts can lead to action,
I can feel happiness and joy
and sadness and even grief.

They come and they go.
And I am fine.

Except once in awhile,
I still need to curl up in bed
under the covers
and let it
around me.


NaPoWriMo 3


There are lions in the closets,
there are demons in the halls;
there are lemurs in the fax machine,
and goblins in the walls.

There are Shuggoths holding meetings
in the third-floor conference rooms,
and the lobby’s full of cherubs
holding helium balloons.

While we know it isn’t normal,
and I do fear being et,
still the change is quite refreshing,
and no one’s been fired yet.


NaPoWriMo 2

on tension

address me in the bitter days of corn
and hold the lantern for me while I sleep
returning to the room where I was born
to vinyl walls and cans of yellow fruit

there is music pending raucous in the street
and fire spreads like rain from roof to roof
the runners can’t avoid the crimson beat
of thirty thousand rolling steel drums

so shall we leave our mission incomplete
between the burning sky and angry earth
or will the music’s fecund turn repeat
and offer one last heart the pain of birth


How The Light Gets In

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

On the way

Due to a chain of serendipities, I went into The City last night, met work and SL friend A and her friends and neighbors J and J, and saw Leonard Cohen live at Madison Square Garden.

Grand Central Station

It was amazingly wonderful.

Somewhere near Madison Square Garden

I’ve decided that no one else does what Cohen does. He’s not, you know, a singer (I know M will agree with that, haha), not someone who writes songs and then tours around performing them.

Instead he’s a poet, who often puts his poetry to music. He’s a performance artist, where the basic materials are the same as those of singers, but the product is shaped and integrated very differently.

Seventh Avenue and Thirty-Fourth Street

In a good song, there might be one or two lines of lyric that take your breath away, or open your mind for a second (or a lifetime) to whole new universes, or call up some emotion that you’d forgotten, or never felt before.

A good Cohen piece does that with, like, every freaking word.

Stage Door Deli

That’s A above there (left), and one of the J’s (right). The other J (not shown) is to the right of me (also not shown). We’re having liverwurst (me) and pastrami (everyone else) sandwiches at the Stage Door Deli, one of the very few places in the City at which I’ve actually eaten more than once.

Nude Woman and Horse on the backdrop

We got there in plenty of time (but probably good that we decided to skip dessert), and the seats were good (better than they look in the iPad’s zoomless snapshots, although the biggish screens up high to left and right were nice to have; very good camera work and crossfades and all on them; kudos to the camerafolk).

Leonard Cohen, live!

I only discovered Leonard Cohen in Second Life, when Callipygian “Calli” Christensen, who I knew as a photographer and hostess and general breathtakingly smart person, started DJing; she plays lots of Cohen. His poetry really touches something in me (obviously!).

Really nice lighting work throughout

Image above during “Suzanne”. Very nice, mostly understated, lighting work throughout; no sparks or explosions or anything, just the occasional flashes of brightness on or over or at the crowd, well-placed spots, and color-wash effects on and against the backdrop.


(That’s an appropriate light-burst during Hallelujah up there.)

A very high-quality production in general; the band were all amazing, very much including the backup vocals, all of whom got their own solos. Sharon Robinson (who I now know alot more about) sang “Alexandra Leaving”, after Cohen read part of the poem. I thought I would reset the time listening to someone other than Cohen, but she was marvelous; utterly different from him in tone and delivery (in fact the one thing that I’d say didn’t work during the show was one place where they attempted to duet on a line a few times, and their voices just didn’t blend), but somehow very much the same in deep mesmerizing emotional effect.

And the Webb sisters had a duet solo (yeah, yeah) on “If it be Thy will” during the encores (again after Leonard did some of the poem first), which was also lovely.

The Screens

(Oh, and can someone puh-leze go put more content into the Wikipedia page on Roscoe Beck? Sheesh. I would if I actually knew anything. But as Bassist and Musical Director of this whole multi-year Leonard Cohen World Tour, and generally amazing musician, he ought to have more words.)

Tons of stuff I could talk about. :) Cohen’s an old guy now, and his voice is deep and throaty and rough. He spends lots of time down in his signature kneeling position, but he also skips in an amusing manner with one hand over his head between numbers, coming onto or going off the stage, to great audience amusement.

He tipped his hat gallantly at the very end, and the crowd went (even) wild(er).

We joked to each other going in that it was going to be an old crowd, and certainly there weren’t alot of teenyboppers, but it wasn’t entirely (or even mostly) geriatric either; a good mix of ages, mostly upper middle class and whitish (although there was one very pretty non-whitish woman in the row ahead of us, so not an utterly pale audience).

Cohen had a few, but very warm and funny, conversational asides. Before “There Ain’t No Cure For Love”, he said something about the times having their terrors, and how sometimes he feels that he needs a forklift to raise his spirits, and that he looks at himself in the mirror and says “Lighten up, Leonard!” (lots of crowd laughter there), “When are you going to recover from finding out there ain’t no cure for love?” (segue into song).

He put out a portable keyboard (for which piece I now forget) and said something about how this was a new piece of technology that most of us probably hadn’t seen before, and it plays itself! He turn turned on some drum loop, to more audience laughter.

During that number he played a couple of notes on it, and the audience applauded and whistled and he sort of paused the song and said “was that just sympathy for an elderly guy? I can do alot more than that; I can play two notes at once!” and he did a little of that and the number continued, and the audience was generally ecstatic.

What else what else? He sang that one line of Hallelujah as “I didn’t come to New York City just to fool ya” (as I gather he tends to when playing live). He introduced all of his co-performers at least three times, with very genuine (genuine seeming? is that an oxymoron?) warmth.

He opened with “Dance Me To The End Of Love”, a classic and a popular favorite, and opened the second half with “Tower of Song” (similarly). At least one person in the audience kept yelling out “Hallelujah!” in between numbers (well, the numbers before “Hallelujah”, anyway); I yelled “Freebird!”, but only loud enough for the immediate row to hear. :)

They did “Democracy (is coming, to the USA)”, to considerable audience cheering and stomping, I think during the encores. (Complete setlist is here; they are fast!)

Hallelujah was the official finale, and then they did “Take this waltz” while he thanked all the band members again, and the audience then insisted on encores. We got “So long, Marianne”, and “Democracy”, and the aforementioned “If It Be Thy Will” with the Webb sisters, and they finally chased us off with “Closing Time” (“All the women tear their blouses off, and the men they dance on the polka-dots, and it’s partner found and it’s partner lost, and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops”).

(Of my favorite Cohen numbers, the main one missing from the concert was “Light as the Breeze”. Too elite for the masses, I’m sure! :) )

Headed home

A and J and J had snuck out a little before the last encore to get the 11:52 back south (the next train being at 1:30 or so). I wandered about looking for Penn Station and the subway (which you wouldn’t think would take much wandering, being basically in the same building, but the place is a bl––ding maze), took the Seventh Avenue Express up to Times Square, got the last shuttle to Grand Central (I guess they stop at midnight, the wimps), made the 12:08 northbound local with like 45 seconds to spare, and before long was nestled asleep in my bed.

What a good time. :) Extreme thanks to A, and to the Deities of Chance, and to Mr. Cohen and the Band.


Light show

Big-ass lightning storm
East out the airplane window.
Perfect idleness.