Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dot Product: The Cross Between Particle Theory and Pointillism

Dots and dot-related words (dust, particles, particulates, etc.) frequently appear in my current work. In this poem, I play with the ideas of particle theory and pointillism. With a generous dose of poetic license, the mathematical operation dot product is applied to those two other "dot" things, particle theory and pointillism, mixing them together to arrive at one thing. In the fourth section of the poem is a reference to Seurat's famous painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, which is often used as an example of pointillism:

File:A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884.jpg

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884; image credit: Public Domain

Dot Product: The Cross Between Particle Theory and Pointillism 
(originally published in the 2011 issue of Paper Nautilus)

Up close, everything is made up
of elementary particles, tiny dots.

They vibrate, shimmer, dance
Maybe because they’re agitated,
maybe because they’re excited,

it doesn’t matter.
                  The countless tiny particles
that makes us and fill us
are moving, always moving,
even if just a quiver.

At a distance, anything
of any shape
will look like a dot, a mere point.

An insignificant dot risks
being missed

unless it is named.
And so those who explicate
have given a name—point particles—
to the near nothingness
of our elementary dancing dots.

And the explicators say
those point particles at the root of everything—
idealized—they have no structure,
have no mass.
They take up no space.
Up close
then, perhaps nothing
can look like a dot
because there is no
thing to see.
And yet—
here we are. We, who are made of quivering particles,
we have mass.
We take up space.

At a distance, a huddle of dots                                   
will take shape, will take color.

Take pointillism: a technique of painting
that uses countless numbers
of colored dots, distinct and unblended dots
all on the flat plane of a raw canvas.
Point after point of pure and different color.

                                    When viewed from afar,
the dots will be marshaled into solid shapes
by the mind:
perhaps into the shape of a proper parasol
held by a woman,
a bustled woman,
prim and detached,
a monkey at her feet,
a romping dog by her side.
In the distance, a boat at full sail,
white and billowy.

And those dots, perhaps a division
of blues, purples, oranges, and yellows,
will converge and blend into some other color—
let’s imagine into the fragrant green of a grassy field.

Form and color, forged
from the smallest dots with no structure.

At a distance, God is a pointillist painter
and time a ready canvas.

At a distance, the universe is a painting in some art gallery
            and evolution a paint-by-point particles adventure.

At a distance, humanity is a palette of constrained color
            and I am one dot, dancing wildly.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review of Wild Flight by Christine Rhein

[I originally posted this review on 30-Jun-2012 on Poetry Matters.]

Texas Tech University Press

By the numbers
ISBN 978-0896726215
Publication: 2008
Total pages: 120
Number of poems: 47


It was the fabulous Molly Peacock, one of my mentors in Spalding's MFA program, who introduced me to Wild Flight and the multifaceted poetry of Christine Rhein. In addition to the recommendation-review below, I also had the opportunity to interview Christine. Click here for the interview and to read more about her. Nancy Chen Long

Christine Rhein's debut book
Wild Flight takes the reader on no ordinary journey, from World-War II Germany to contemporary Detroit. To keep us securely fastened in our seats, Rhein provides threads of continuity, most notably through a layering of various facets of flight, such as refugees fleeing

An Interview with Poet Christine Rhein

[I originally posted this interview on 30-Jun-2012 on Poetry Matters.]

How little, really, we decide in life, how wild the impact,
what gets learned by heart …
from “Washing Windows,” Christine Rhein

As mentioned in my recommendation-review of Wild Flight, I was introduced to Christine Rhein's poetry by way of Molly Peacock. (Thank-you Molly!) There are many things to appreciate regarding Christine’s poetry, including the way she weaves science, technology, and math into her verse, her gift for the lyric as well as narrative, and her engagement with the world through the daily news. Wild Flight contains a number of poems inspired by, or based on, the news, such as