Public Space · Science · Technology

Catalytic Coating Makes Pollution-Eating Billboards

I write in praise of air. I was six or five
when a conjurer opened my knotted fist
and I held in my palm the whole of the sky.
I’ve carried it with me ever since.

That is the opening stanza from “In Praise of Air” by British poet, playwright and novelist Simon Armitage.

There’s beauty to this poem that goes beyond the ideas it conveys and the careful craftsmanship of the writer. The work doesn’t just praise the air, it clears it.

Or, more accurately, the 65-foot-high banner upon which the poem is printed clears it. That’s because the material is coated with nanotechnology that chews up airborne pollutants.

In Praise of Air, a collaboration between Armitage and physical chemistry professor Tony Ryan, has been unfurled on a building at the University of Sheffield in the UK to bring attention to Ryan’s innovation.

Text and Image via TXCHNOLOGIST. Read full article at the TXCHNOLOGIST

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Human-ities · Philosophy · Science

Everything is Leaf: In The Metamorphosis of Plants, Goethe turned to botany — because sometimes, poetry isn’t enough.

Found among the notes of the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe is a stupendous claim: Everything is leaf. This is a statement that seems too beautiful to be science. Goethe came to this idea on a trip to Italy in the late 1700s. The more Goethe looked at plants, and lived and breathed with plants, the more profoundly he felt poetry’s limits. He turned to botany and began publishing scientific works. He created his own study of seeing, which he called “morphology.” In this, Goethe’s love of plants followed the same path that all lasting love must take. Goethe wanted to know plants from their most essential beginnings, wanted to touch their seeds, follow their cycles. He couldn’t be satisfied just wandering around parks, glancing at the flowers and pronouncing metaphors upon them — Goethe had to understand what a plant truly is. Everything is leaf, he discovered at last, every part of a plant is leaf. The cotyledon, the foliage, the cataphylls, the petals — a plant is fundamentally leaf. Goethe published this intimate memoir of his relationship with leaves and named it The Metamorphosis of Plants.

It’s unsurprising that Goethe came to his idea about the everythingness of leaf while wandering the lush countryside of Naples. I wonder if he could have had his realization trudging through the barren early spring gardens of Weimar. “The Neapolitan firmly believes that he lives in Paradise and takes a very dismal view of northern countries,” Goethe wrote in his notebook. “Sempre neve, case di legno, gran ignoranza, ma denari assai — that is how he pictures our lives. For the edification of all northerners, this means: ‘Snow all the year round, wooden houses, great ignorance, but lots of money.’” That is to say, a leaf in Germany is a mostly invisible thing. It is an entr’acte, a promise. In the northern parts of the world, the leaves hide inside the sticks; the sticks, for most of the year, look dead. And only a poet or a flimflammer could come up with the notion that something hardly visible is everything.

Text by Stefany Anne Golberg. Continue at The Smart Set.

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Eco/Adaptable · Human-ities · Philosophy

W.H. Auden and Ecopoetics

W.H. Auden is a Greek poet, at least when it comes to nature. No, I don’t mean that he is all about olive trees and white sand beaches: I mean there is something fundamentally classical in his attitude toward the natural world, something that puts him at odds with the two dominant modes of nature poetry of our time—something that, indeed, casts light on the outlines of those norms.

The two most common attitudes toward non-human nature in contemporary poetry are the Romantic (or sentimental—if we can use that word without condescension) and the ecopoetic. The first of these dates back more than two centuries, and receives its most powerful theoretical articulation in Friedrich Schiller’s great essay of 1795, “On Simple and Sentimental Poetry.” Here, Schiller begins by describing the longing for the realm of nature among self-conscious and sophisticated people:

There are moments in our life, when we dedicate a kind of love and touching respect to nature in its plants, minerals, animals, landscapes . . . not because it is pleasing to our senses, not even because it satisfies our understanding or taste . . . but rather merely because it is nature. Every fine man, who does not altogether lack feeling, experiences this, when he walks in the open, when he lives upon the land . . . in short, when he is surprised in artificial relations and situations with the sight of simple nature.

Excerpt from a text written by Robert Archambeau at the Boston Review. Continue THERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Theory

Poetry Changed the World: Injury and the Ethics of Reading

What is the ethical power of literature? Can it diminish acts of injuring, and if it can, what aspects of literature deserve the credit?

All these questions, at first, hinge on another: can anything diminish injury? In his recent book The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker argues that, over 50 centuries, many forms of violence have subsided.1 Among the epochs he singles out for special scrutiny is a hundred-year period bridging the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries during which an array of brutal acts—executing accused witches, imprisoning debtors, torturing animals, torturing humans, inflicting the death penalty, enslaving fellow human beings—suddenly abated, even if they did not disappear.

Attempting to account for “the sweeping change in everyday sensibilities” toward “the suffering in other living things” and for the protective laws that emerged during the Humanitarian Revolution, Pinker argues that the legal reforms were in some degree a product of increasing literacy. Reforms were immediately preceded by a startling increase in book production (e.g., in England, the number of publications rose from fewer than 500 per decade in 1600 to 2,000 per decade by 1700, and to 7,000 per decade by 1800) and by an equally startling surge in literacy, with the majority of Englishmen literate by the end of the seventeenth century, French by the end of the eighteenth, and Danish, Finnish, German, Icelandic, Scottish, Swedish, and Swiss by the end of the nineteenth century.

Excerpt from an article written by Elaine Scarry, Boston Review. Continue HERE

Human-ities

What happens to poetry when everybody is a poet?

Dejà vu?
What happens to poetry when everybody is a poet? In a recent lecture that poses this question, Jed Rasula notes:

The colleges and universities that offer graduate degrees in poetry employ about 1,800 faculty members to support the cause. But these are only 177 of the 458 institutions that teach creative writing. Taking those into account, the faculty dedicated to creative writing swells to more than 20,000. All these people must comply with the norms for faculty in those institutions, filing annual reports of their activities, in which the most important component is publication. With that in mind, I don’t need to spell out the truly exorbitant numbers involved. In a positive light, it has sanctioned a surfeit of small presses . . . to say nothing of all the Web-zines.

What makes Rasula’s cautionary tale so sobering is that the sheer number of poets now plying their craft inevitably ensures moderation and safety. The national (or even transnational) demand for a certain kind of prize-winning, “well-crafted” poem—a poem that the New Yorker would see fit to print and that would help its author get one of the “good jobs” advertised by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs—has produced an extraordinary uniformity. Whatever the poet’s ostensible subject—and here identity politics has produced a degree of variation, so that we have Latina poetry, Asian American poetry, queer poetry, the poetry of the disabled, and so on—the poems you will read in American Poetry Review or similar publications will, with rare exceptions, exhibit the following characteristics: 1) irregular lines of free verse, with little or no emphasis on the construction of the line itself or on what the Russian Formalists called “the word as such”; 2) prose syntax with lots of prepositional and parenthetical phrases, laced with graphic imagery or even extravagant metaphor (the sign of “poeticity”); 3) the expression of a profound thought or small epiphany, usually based on a particular memory, designating the lyric speaker as a particularly sensitive person who really feels the pain, whether of our imperialist wars in the Middle East or of late capitalism or of some personal tragedy such as the death of a loved one.

Excerpt of an article written by Marjorie Perloff, Boston Review. Continue HERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Social/Politics

Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry

Saheera Sharif, the founder of Mirman Baheer (upper center); Ogai Amail, a poet and member of the group (bottom left); also pictured are other members of the poets’ group.

In a private house in a quiet university neighborhood of Kabul, Ogai Amail waited for the phone to ring. Through a plate-glass window, she watched the sinking sun turn the courtyard the color of eggplant. The electricity wasn’t working and the room was unheated, a few floor cushions the only furnishings. Amail tucked her bare feet underneath her and pulled up the collar of her puffy black coat. Her dark hair was tied in a ponytail, and her eyelids were coated in metallic blue powder. In the green glare of the mobile phone’s screen, her face looked wan and worried. When the phone finally bleeped, Amail shrieked with joy and put on the speakerphone. A teenage girl’s voice tumbled into the room. “I’m freezing,” the girl said. Her voice was husky with cold. To make this call, she’d sneaked out of her father’s mud house without her coat.

Like many of the rural members of Mirman Baheer, a women’s literary society based in Kabul, the girl calls whenever she can, typically in secret. She reads her poems aloud to Amail, who transcribes them line by line. To conceal her poetry writing from her family, the girl relies on a pen name, Meena Muska. (Meena means “love” in the Pashto language; muska means “smile.”)

Meena lost her fiancé last year, when a land mine exploded. According to Pashtun tradition, she must marry one of his brothers, which she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t dare protest directly, but reciting poetry to Amail allows her to speak out against her lot. When I asked how old she was, Meena responded in a proverb: “I am like a tulip in the desert. I die before I open, and the waves of desert breeze blow my petals away.” She wasn’t sure of her age but thought she was 17. “Because I am a girl, no one knows my birthday,” she said.

Excerpt of an article written by ELIZA GRISWOLD, NYT. Continue HERE