Google poetry goes…paper?

Actual book summary encountered today while I was selecting new books:

"Poetry consisting of found text from Google search results."

And I find myself surprised, not at the fact that someone would publish a book of found poetry from collaged text, or that they'd assemble it out of Google-fragments, but that the resulting poems would end up published in print. It's a little odd to think of an all-but-born-digital form jumping backward into older media. (Although not so surprising when you recall the various paper-based Dadaist experiments with collage and cadavres exquis.)

I'm kind of intrigued, actually, because I've always liked the found poem genre, and I'm curious as to how the poet put the found text together. One can always auto-generate Google poems, after all, but presumably these are assembled differently.

Evidence for the history of reading

I think I’ve previously blogged about the Reading Experience Database, a project based at the Open University in London; as the name suggests, they’re building a big database of evidence of what (and how) people read in Britain, from the advent of printing to 1945. When I last looked at the project site, the database wasn’t open to the public yet. But now it is, and you can search it in a variety of interesting ways. I tried a search to see who read Milton’s Paradise Lost, and another to see who was reading conduct books before the 19th century. You can also search for particular readers, such as Samuel Pepys. Fascinating stuff, all of it.

It’s very much a work in progress, but they’re also looking for people to contribute; I hope I’ll get the chance to send them some evidence. It pleases both my inner book-history geek and my inner web-2.0 enthusiast to see how participatory this project is, and how useful it could eventually become.

Random bullets of New London

  • The biggest surprise of moving here: even a couple of miles upriver from the Long Island Sound, I can still smell the sea, especially downtown, especially if the wind is blowing in the right direction. And there are always seagulls flying around over downtown. At some point I’ll have to try taking the ferry across to Long Island.
  • Grocery report: Fiddleheads Food Co-op, while not fully operational yet, is a decent place to get my organic hippie groceries, not to mention produce on Saturday mornings. Today I found little round cucumbers and a bunch of zinnias there. I was going to go check out this place this afternoon, but torrential rains are keeping me indoors.
  • One actually can get around on the local buses; it just takes a bit of advance planning. And strategy, because they only run once an hour. I’m definitely getting a bike before too long.
  • Random food factoid I learned the other day: there’s a distinctive southern Connecticut style of pizza, locally referred to as “apizza.” I think there’s also supposed to be a distinctive local style of clam chowder, but I haven’t gotten a chance to try any.
  • I haven’t visited the Antientist Burial Ground yet, but it’s not far from where I live, and when I do, I’ll take pictures.
  • There are what look to be wild blackberries growing next to the road on part of my walk home. Only I’m paranoid about picking any, because a) they’re probably saturated in exhaust from the interstate and b) I’m no botanist, and what if they turn out to be something poisonous instead?
  • You can totally see Long Island from the Connecticut College campus on clear days! (Or maybe it’s Fishers Island. I’m not entirely sure.) Take a look:

Personal anthology: Virginia Woolf

I have a hard time not quoting Virginia Woolf’s short story (almost a prose poem) “A Haunted House” in its entirety. But instead I’ll just quote the beginning and end, and point you towards the University of Adelaide’s e-books collection where you can read the whole thing.

Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting. From room to room they went, hand in hand, lifting here, opening there, making sure—a ghostly couple.

“Here we left it,” she said. And he added, “Oh, but here too!” “It’s upstairs,” she murmured. “And in the garden,” he whispered “Quietly,” they said, “or we shall wake them.”

Nearer they come; cease at the doorway. The wind falls, the rain
slides silver down the glass. Our eyes darken; we hear no steps
beside us; we see no lady spread her ghostly cloak. His hands
shield the lantern. “Look,” he breathes. “Sound
asleep. Love upon their lips.”

Stooping, holding their silver lamp above us, long they look and
deeply. Long they pause. The wind drives straightly; the flame
stoops slightly. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall,
and, meeting, stain the faces bent; the faces pondering; the faces
that search the sleepers and seek their hidden joy.

“Safe, safe, safe,” the heart of the house beats
proudly. “Long years—” he sighs. “Again you
found me.” “Here,” she murmurs, “sleeping;
in the garden reading; laughing, rolling apples in the loft. Here
we left our treasure—” Stooping, their light lifts the
lids upon my eyes. “Safe! safe! safe!” the pulse of the
house beats wildly. Waking, I cry “Oh, is this your buried
treasure? The light in the heart.”

—Virginia Woolf, from “A Haunted House,” in A Haunted House and Other Short Stories

In which my books take over the living room floor

Unpacked books

This is what happens when I decide that, after unpacking my books but before shelving them, I ought to rethink my entire organizational system.

Unpacked books, top view
I kind of like the effect, actually. Except for the whole “can’t walk across the living room” thing.

Unpacked books, side view

I doubt these photos will win any book pile contests at LibraryThing, but I wanted to record the process for posterity anyway.

Photo post!

And now, for those of you who aren’t already tired of hearing about my move to Connecticut, here’s the pictorial version (full set on Flickr). Click to embiggen:


Packing underway in my old living room.


The same room, emptied.


Last sight of Center City and the Schuylkill River from the train window, going north.


Pristine new living room, before the movers arrived.


Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor’d…

And that’s pretty much the sum of it. (Yes, I finally got a camera, and yes, I’ve been having fun with it. Expect the occasional New London architecture shot or portrait of in-progress knitting to crop up here from time to time.)

…and I made it!

I’m now in my new apartment in New London, surrounded by boxes, getting ready to crash hard for the rest of the evening, and listening an unknown recording of Don Giovanni that’s playing on the radio. (I was just searching through the channels and came upon it right in the middle of Leporello’s catalogue aria. Now I’m hoping the station will identify itself and give some indication of whether they play Mozart operas all the time, or just on occasional Tuesday evenings.) More to follow when I’m not so zonked out; for now, greetings from a blissfully heat-wave-free corner of Connecticut.

[Update: Ah. It’s a classical music station not far from New Haven, they’re playing highlights from a bunch of recordings, and they do this every Tuesday night. Yay! Shades of the Sunday Opera Matinee on WTJU back in Charlottesville!]

Going, going…

Yesterday I took in one last movie, one last gelato, and one last browse at my excellent neighborhood used bookstore (where I said goodbye to Holly the bookstore cat). This morning the movers arrived; they’re already on their way to Connecticut. The apartment is mostly clean and echoingly empty. This evening I’m heading up to New London by train, where I’ll have a few days to settle in before starting my new job next Monday. Right now I’m eating lunch at Mugshots, which I’ll definitely miss having right around the corner. All in all, I can’t think of many better ways to say goodbye to my neighborhood.

Tomorrow I’ll start getting to know a brand-new neighborhood. But maybe someday, if I ever come back to live in Philadelphia again, I’ll return to this same part of town. I chose well when I decided to move here, and I’ll miss it.

(This post would probably be more scintillating if I’d had more than four hours of sleep last night. Why is it that there are always more boxes to finish packing than you think there are?)

I <3 xkcd

The web comic xkcd always makes me laugh, but today’s I just had to share:

(Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.)

[Update: Crud. Typepad template vs. <img> width conflict. Click the link above the comic to see the punch line.]

Ph.D.s in libraries: Yet once more

Catching up on several weeks’ worth of articles in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, I spotted Todd Gilman’s ominously titled “Subject Experts Need Not Apply,” which reports that librarians with subject Ph.D.s aren’t getting jobs at the rate one would expect. Writes Gilman:

Many recent job postings for humanities librarians, reference
librarians, or those specializing in research education do not list
subject expertise as a requirement. In place of subject expertise,
those job postings require relevant library experience (variously
defined) and, more often than not, technology skills, neither of which,
to my mind, makes up for a lack of advanced education in a particular

Having just come out of a job search, I’ve also noticed that there aren’t a whole lot of library jobs that specifically require graduate study in a subject field. I applied for a range of jobs, some of which didn’t require a Ph.D. or master’s in any field outside library science, some of which did. Lots of the postings I responded to were in the format Gilman describes.

I’m not sure I’m as worried about it as Gilman is, though. Maybe it’s the number of nibbles I got from places that were definitely interested in my subject knowledge (although there were several jobs I applied for that did call for a Ph.D., but all I got was a skinny envelope; I suppose I’ll never know why). My Ph.D. turned out to be an asset for the job I’ll be starting at the end of the month; even though the initial job description didn’t specify English literature expertise, it turned out to have a subject specialist component. I suspect, also, that people with both a Ph.D. and an MLS aren’t terribly thick on the ground, and that search committees don’t always put “advanced graduate study in X field” into job descriptions because they want to make sure they get more than a handful of candidates to choose from.

On the one hand, I do agree with my fellow CLIR fellow Daphnée Rentfrow (whose essay is quoted in Gilman’s article) that someone needs to bridge the librarian/faculty gap, and that people with expertise in both worlds are in an excellent position to do just that; it’s one of the things I most want to do. But part of me wants to qualify Gilman’s point. The Ph.D. put me in a splendid position to talk to faculty, understand their research processes, and anticipate what they might need from libraries. But it also encouraged me to zero in on a smaller and smaller area of specialization, and to think about other areas of specialization as outside the scope of my knowledge. (I still have all sorts of lacunae in my awareness of literature from periods and regions I didn’t specialize in. I can tell you a lot about early modern English poetry, but don’t quiz me in any great detail on the 19th-century novel.)

By contrast, the subject specialist librarian’s knowledge of a field is necessarily broad and wide-ranging. I’m not saying that the Ph.D. precludes any kind of generalist approach to a field, but it does tend to steer people away from thinking that way, and certain habits of thought can be hard to break.

In the end, I think it’s the Ph.D. in the humanities (and also the way we train academic librarians who plan to be subject specialists) that really needs to change. But that’s something I’ve already said many times before.