ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE

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DEVON BALWIT

‘Little Earthquakes’ by Lorette C. Luzajic

This month’s topic of Future Life thrilled me no end.

First, the act of writing poetry is one of creating infinite future worlds even when one is writing about events from the past. I never know what will appear before me on the blank page. Every poem takes me somewhere new.

Too, as a 55-year-old woman, I know the future is not really mine, but my children’s, and my children’s children. Many days, the future looks bleak. I imagine global catastrophes of our own making—global warming, climate refugees, human-caused mass-extinctions, plagues, bio-terrorism, nuclear war. Quite a few of my poems examine the coming crises or post-apocalyptic themes: “410 ppm,” “Eco Echo: An Oldster’s Tale,” and “The Last of the Last (of Us).” They explore what life will be like some awful when. On more optimistic days, I think maybe, just maybe, we will pull ourselves back from the brink.

Technology makes me anxious. I only recently created a Facebook page, and that coincident with starting seriously to publish my work as I needed a ready-made platform. Even so, I keep my camera covered and don’t follow Instagram or Twitter. I can make an mp-3 file, but am hopeless when it comes to making GIFs, memes, or video feed. I think that, despite my best intentions and my deeply suspicious nature, social media has hooked me. It has messed up my concentration, robbing me of my ability to read for hours at a time. (I am constantly checking what is going on (or not) on line). I no longer write long-hand in journals, but exclusively on a keyboard. Some of my poems speak to this ambivalence: “creatures of another age,” “I am an Algorithm,” and “Blue Church.”

But this doesn’t mean I’m not fascinated by technology. I watch with interest the attempts of AI to write poetry (see articles such as “What Happens When an AI Program Tries to Write Poetry?” and drama (so far very choppy, disjointed, and weird—not yet human-like, but getting closer all the time). My poems “I Was a Boy/I Was a Stranger” and “Benjamin Tells Us” actually incorporate lines written by an AI who calls himself Benjamin. I am including links to the videos ‘Sunspring’ and ‘It’s No Game’ and hope that you will watch them yourself. I also benefit from the FB feed, fed daily a rich diet of photographic images, art, poetry, news, and essays, which all inspire my work.

Even in terms of form, I am always ready to play, to seek out forms of the future. My daughter had to come up with an Extended Essay for her math IB class and designed poetic forms based on algebraic principles. This had me counting syllables to write poems shaped like parabolas (“Borne Along”), ones that expanded and contracted exponentially, and ones that were equivalent on each side of the page (“Hard Choices 10=10”). I’ll try Golden Shovels, skinny poems, poems with // instead of commas and periods—whatever keeps the writing fresh.

Thank you for playing along.

Devon Balwit

‘Little Earthquakes’ by Lorette C. Luzajic

Blue Church

All around me bent heads. Such a clever tether. All aglow with screenlight.
Youth neutralized by self. Like-hungry. The State has nothing to fear.

Briefly one will nudge another. Two heads fold over the same box. Something
will be exchanged. The tiniest speech bubble. Absorption returns.

Such docility. The herd quiet. The guard dog scratches for fleas. Nuzzles
its crotch. To ask questions would be irreverent. Better to join the worship.

(Journal of Applied Poetics)

I am an algorithm

I am an algorithm, rhythm, rhythm
sexy, catchy click bait, gyrate, generate
sliding down the sidebar, baring all
luring eyes to follow me, follow me

I am an algorithm, rhythm, rhythm
news to you, to those like you, to those
you like, liking you, swirling in our
own closed enclosure, ever-closer

I am an algorithm, rhythm, rhythm
searching for your group, your troop,
your tribe, your trip, trouble, trauma
your self-bubble, gaseously ashimmer

I am an algorithm, rhythm, rhythm
invisible, protected, directed, undetected
working, working, extracting the meat
of you, sucking the teat, the heat of you

I am an algorithm, rhythm, rhythm
your sensorium’s immense censor
ever-clever, cleverer, never letting, but
abetting, never you, but those who shadow you

(Dream Fever Magazine)

‘Thirty-three’ by Lorette C. Luzajic

‘Television Alley’ by Lorette C. Luzajic

creatures of another age

a window used to frame the sky, a page
held words, ripe berries filled the hand,
our eyes caught strangers’ eyes, land
fenced playing children, work’s stage
was the office, we used the face to gauge
delight or pain, paused and didn’t demand
instant response, we buried our toes in sand
and lazed, creatures of another age.
now we scroll screens day and night,
work in bed, play at table, heedless
of the hour or company, one click spreads
vitriol worldwide, geese in flight
pass unattended as our children press
controllers; we’re a world of bent heads.

(Forms Most Marvelous Chapbook)

Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry); We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/ Complicated (with the Canadian artist Lorette C. Luzajic), and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can be found in Cordite, The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, The Ekphrastic Review, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, The Free State Review, Rattle, Posit, and more.

Lorette C. Luzajic’s art, poetry, and photography is driven by eclectic curiosity and the joy of juxtaposition. She shows regularly in her home city, Toronto, Canada, and her collage paintings have also recently exhibited in Tunisia and Mexico. She is the founding editor of The Ekphrastic Review.

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