Meta Poetry: I and II

by | Jun 19, 2019 | Aesthetics, Ambigrams, Art, Creativity, Design, Fun, Personal, Philosophy, Poetry, Worth Reading

This sentence refers to itself. This sentence declares that this blog post is about 2 poems I wrote recently. Both these poems are self-referential to some degree, namely both poems are about poetry. I have been interested in self-reference for along time—and this infatuation is described in greater detail at the end of this post. For now, enjoy the poems.

The first poem is a response to the poem Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye. You may want to read the original before reading my response. Go ahead, click the link above…. [Pause]… Welcome back. Hope you liked the poem. Something clicked in my mind after reading it – and in response I wrote this:

On reading Naomi Shihab Nye

June 10, 2019

Some poets I want to meet
Naomi Shihab Nye, most definitely
She is famous to me
Others, maybe not so much

Their words are stern, less inviting
Their minds, for some reason
Less interesting

But the ones I want to meet
They, they are special
And I want to hear them smile

I have nothing to say to them
As Naomi wrote
They are famous to me
(I am not famous to them)

I have known poets 
(My mother, for instance)
Decent but average people
So it is not like I am expecting
Any great wisdom or insight

I just like their words
The jumps, the connections
And I feel like we could be
(could have been)

As I click the link
And stare obsessively at
The photo on the website
Read between the lines of your bio
Books written awards won
Photos are terrible
So are bios

They tell us nothing
Similar to poetry in that way.

Some days I miss my mother

Here is the next meta-poem. I have been reading a decent amount of poetry recently, mostly courtesy of This poem has gone through quite a few revisions—and I am sure it will evolve further. But for now here it is.

Poetry does not need 

June 18, 2019

Poetry does not need to 
Make a point
It just needs to try
(And fail) 
That’s all
No more.

Polemics and posturing
Feel good, for sure
To scratch an itch
But life’s a bitch,
Doing nothing for the ills 
It seeks to cure.

Better by far, for the poem 
To just point to something
The warm winter sun  
A baby laughing
Graffiti peeling off a wall
And yes, that smile, yes that one. 

All relatively
And yet, 
(I must confess),
Meaning so much more. 

Note I: These poems were edited on July 15, 2019

Note II: On my infatuation with self-reference
If this is not obvious by now, I love self-reference. I love books with titles like: “What is the name of this book?” or “Break all the rules of graphic design, including this one.” Or statements such as “This sentence no verb.” The last example is from Douglas Hofstadter’s classic Godel Escher Bach: A Eternal Golden Braid. And mentioning Douglas Hofstadter in this post is appropriate because, he, more than anyone else, infected me with the bug of self-reference way back when I was in high-school. He is also responsible for my love of paradoxes, visual wordplay and so much more. [Not to digress, but paradoxes often come along for the ride when we are speaking of self-reference. For instance, just consider the sentence: “This sentence is false” and try figuring out what exactly is going on here. Enough to bend your mind.]

Now, not all self-reference is pathological, by which I mean that most self-referential statements are benign, harmless. Consider “This sentence is in English.” Clearly the sentence is speaking about itself, but there is no inherent problem in that.

This interest in self-reference has, over the years, expressed itself in myriad ways—in my ambigram designs, in silly limericks I have written, many of the stupid jokes I crack (as my friends and colleagues know very well). I mean what could be more self-referential than an ambigram for the word “ambigram.” Form and function deeply connected.

One of the ways self-reference shows up in my work is when I write poetry and this goes back years, as this blog post demonstrates, and of course in the two poems featured in this post.

A few randomly selected blog posts…

New optical illusion: An oscillating visual paradox!

New optical illusion: An oscillating visual paradox!

A design for the word "illusions" inspired by a design by Scott Kim.  I have been obsessed with optical illusions for for a long time. This interest has played out in many ways: from the hundreds of ambigrams I have created to the new year’s videos we create as a...

New ambigram, Algebra

I have been thinking about the relationship between ambigrams and mathematics - instigated in no small part by an email conversation with Gaurav Bhatnagar. That inspired me to create ambigrams of words that are related to mathematics. There are a few ideas percolating...

On messing with your mind

A fascinating series of illusions to reveal just how complicated a phenomenon perception is. I was particularly impressed by the "rubber hand" illusion. And then, from Gizmodo, comes the Yoshimoto cube. Words are not enough to describe what this mind-bending object...

Mastery=unconscious (contd.)

Robin Revette Fowler sent me a message on Facebook regarding my recent posting(s) about moving from incompetence to mastery (see the two previous posts here and here). She took issue with my idea that mastery requires some kind of meta-level, self-awareness. She said...

Defense against the dark arts in the Sydney Morning Herald

Defense against the dark arts in the Sydney Morning Herald

I was in Sydney recently to present a keynote at the MITE conference. I spoke there about some issues that have been concerning me for a while—what I like to call the "dark arts" of digital technologies. After the conference I had a wide-ranging interview with Jordan...

TPACK Ambigram

I have been wanting to create a TPACK ambigram for a while now... what would be better than combining my two greatest loves - technology integration in teaching WITH ambigrams! Finally after some subtle prodding by Matt Koehler I have finally done so. This is a...

From Crayons to AI: New article (10 years of writing)

From Crayons to AI: New article (10 years of writing)

Ten years ago, we, The Deep Play Research Group, were invited to write a regular series of articles for this journal exploring the relationship between technology, creativity and learning. To celebrate this anniversary, we decided to write two summary/ synthesis...


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